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NCHS Survey Measures Catalog

Child and Adolescent Mental Health FAQ

  1. What type of information is in the catalog?
  2. Does the NCHS Survey Measures Catalog provide general information about various mental disorders and treatments for these disorders?
  3. Does the NCHS Measures Catalog include information about adolescents?
  4. What types of questions or scales are included as measures of "mental health"?
  5. Why is "Parental mental health" listed as a topic describing children?
  6. Why isn't all the information collected in NCHS surveys available in public use files?
  7. What is the Research Data Center (RDC)?
  8. Are there special conditions for the use of questions or scales appearing in NCHS surveys?
  9. What are the major surveys sponsored by NCHS?
  10. Where can I find the frequency distribution of responses for a particular measure?
  11. Why do some measures appear in more than one survey?
  12. What factors should be considered when an analysis uses data from more than one survey?
  13. What is an ambulatory medical care visit?
  14. Can the ambulatory medical care surveys be used to find out how many people have a particular diagnosis?
  15. Must a researcher use only a single year or a single care setting when analyzing data from NAMCS and NHAMCS?
  16. Why are there so many NHANES data files?
  17. Where can I find more answers to frequently asked questions?

 

1. What type of information is in the catalog?

The NCHS Measures Catalog includes information about survey measures including the wording of survey questions, response options, data collection method, and other information. This type of information about survey measures is often called "metadata". The catalog also includes links to sites with the survey questionnaire, data file, data file documentation, and other relevant information. For some measures, there are links to interactive websites that allow users to tabulate data.

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2. Does the NCHS Survey Measures Catalog provide general information about various mental disorders and treatments for these disorders?

No. The website provides information about survey measures in various NCHS surveys of child and adolescent mental disorders and use of mental health services. However, information about specific disorders and treatments can be obtained from the Related Resources page.

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3. Does the NCHS Measures Catalog include information about adolescents?

Yes. The information for each measure includes the specific ages of the children covered by the survey question or scale. The term, "children", is sometimes used in the catalog to refer to persons less than 18 years of age.

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4. What types of questions or scales are included as measures of "mental health"?

Mental health is broadly defined to include child mental disorders and conditions, conditions related to development and learning, symptoms related to mental health difficulties, activity limitation related to emotional, behavioral, and developmental conditions, measures of parental conditions and symptoms, and use of mental health care and special educational services by children. Most measures describe children, but some measures describe ambulatory medical care visits by children.

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5. Why is "Parental mental health" listed as a topic describing children?

The measures listed under the topic, "Parental mental health", are based on data collected for a sample of children. These measures are not based on data collected for a sample of parents. A parent is often the informant for questions about a sample child and for questions about parental mental health.

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6. Why isn't all the information collected in NCHS surveys available in public use files?

Some information, including data on alcohol and drug use, and data collected by the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC), and the DISC Predictive Scale - Youth Conduct Disorder, is not available in publicly released files. These files have not been released in order to preserve privacy and confidentiality, consistent with the confidentiality provisions under which the data were collected. Data files including this sensitive information are made available at the NCHS Research Data Center.

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7. What is the Research Data Center (RDC)?

The NCHS Research Data Center (RDC), located at the NCHS headquarters in Hyattsville, MD, allows researchers, meeting certain qualifications and under strict surveillance, to access confidential statistical micro data files. To qualify, researchers must submit a proposal for review and approval. Researchers can use one of three access methods: (1) direct on-site access; (2) remote program submission; or (3) use of programming services provided by RDC staff.

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8. Are there special conditions for the use of questions or scales appearing in NCHS surveys?

Except where it is noted, material in the NCHS catalog is in the public domain and may be used and reprinted without special permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated. When permission from the copyright holders to reproduce particular survey questions has been obtained, this is noted in the "Additional information" section of the Measures Summary. In the case of other measures, special conditions for use are also noted in the "Additional information" section of the Measures Summary.

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9. What are the major surveys sponsored by NCHS?

NCHS has two major types of surveys: population-based surveys that collect data through personal interviews or examinations; and surveys that collect data from medical records of health care providers. Please see the NCHS list of surveys and data collection systems for a listing and description of specific NCHS surveys.

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10. Where can I find the frequency distribution of responses for a particular measure?

For most measures, the frequency distribution of responses is available in the file that contains documentation for the survey. This file can be accessed by clicking on the link shown in the field for "Data file documentation" in Part 2 of the Measures Summary. In a few cases, public use data files for the survey measure are not available and the documentation for these surveys may not include frequency distributions of responses.

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11. Why do some measures appear in more than one survey?

NCHS surveys vary considerably in their content. Using the same measure of a specific mental disorder in several surveys makes it possible to look at a wider range of risk factors and outcomes for the disorder. For example, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) include similar questions about diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, these surveys include different questions about the use of prescription medication and other health services. Because the surveys identify children with ADHD in a similar way, it is possible to use findings from these surveys to develop a more detailed picture of the use of health services by children with diagnosed ADHD.

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12. What factors should be considered when an analysis uses data from more than one survey?

For a few measures, data from more than one survey are available. Before combining information from different surveys, researchers should consider the comparability of the data. Some factors that might be considered include differences in the wording of the survey question, response categories, respondent (e.g., proxy respondent for child or self report by child), mode of the survey (e.g., in-person household interview, telephone interview, etc.), context for a survey question (i.e., the other items in the survey questionnaire and placement of a particular survey question in the survey questionnaire), and timing of the survey. Researchers comparing data from a single survey collected during different time periods also need to consider a similar set of factors affecting the comparability of the data.

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13. What is an ambulatory medical care visit?

In the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), an ambulatory care visit is a visit to a physician's office. In the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), an ambulatory care visit is a visit to a hospital outpatient department or a visit to an emergency department.

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14. Can the ambulatory medical care surveys be used to find out how many people have a particular diagnosis?

No. The ambulatory medical care surveys (NAMCS and NHAMCS) are not based on a sample of the population. They are based on a sample of visits rather than a sample of people. The data can be used to find out how many ambulatory care visits were made that included a particular diagnosis.

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15. Must a researcher use only a single year or a single care setting when analyzing data from NAMCS and NHAMCS?

No. Survey years with the same patient record form (survey instrument) can be easily combined. Years in which the same question of interest is asked can be combined. Within years, data from the surveys of the three care settings can be combined because the surveys have different sampling frames.

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16. Why are there so many NHANES data files?

The data files have been separated to reduce the amount of time needed to download data and documentation from the Internet. The use of many files also makes it easier to produce, edit, and validate data files. Because data from NHANES are presented in many files, the user must often merge files together for a particular analysis. Please refer to the following SAS code example to learn how to merge files together: NHANES data merge code example [TXT - 2 KB].

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17. Where can I find more answers to frequently asked questions?

For most surveys, go to the home pages of the survey for more information. For NHANES surveys, frequently asked questions are included with each NHANES data release.

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  • Patricia Pastor
    Office of Analysis and Epidemiology
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  • 301-458-4422
  • PPastor@cdc.gov
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