Objective: To conduct a systematic review of studies investigating the validity of administrative registers for use in psychiatric research.
Method: Studies were identified using MEDLINE (1966–2004) and EMBASE (1980–2004) databases using keywords ‘validity’ or ‘reliability’ combined with ‘register’ or ‘database$’. Studies reviewed by two raters blind to each other and quality assessed using a data extraction form devised by the authors. A narrative description of the findings is presented.
Results: Fourteen studies were identified, seven of which concerned Scandinavian registers. Ten studies were solely concerned with diagnostic validity and the most common single diagnosis studied was schizophrenia (five studies). Methods used and study quality varied widely.
Conclusion: Given the importance of the area, relatively little high-quality work exists into systematically measuring the diagnostic data validity of registers for research purposes.