To evaluate the usefulness of administrative data for the surveillance of mental illness in Canada using databases in the following 5 provinces: British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Alberta.
We used a population-based record-linkage analysis with data from physician billings, hospital discharge abstracts, and community-based clinics. The following diagnostic codes from the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Edition, were used to define cases: 290 to 319, inclusive.
The prevalence of treated psychiatric disorder was similar in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario at about 15%. The prevalence for Quebec was slightly lower at 12%. Findings from the provinces showed remarkable consistency across age and sex, despite variations in data coding. Women tended to show a higher prevalence overall of treated mental disorders than men. Prevalence increased steadily to middle age, declining in the 50s and 60s, and then increasing again after age 70 years.
Provincial and territorial administrative data can provide a useful, reliable, and economical source of information for the surveillance of treated mental disorders. Such a surveillance system can provide longitudinal data at little cost to support health service provision and planning.