Assessment of validity for the “language spoken at home” variable in Québec death records: Summary
This document falls within the framework of the analysis project on the health of official language minority communities in Quebec led by the INSPQ, in collaboration with the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN) and the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. This report focuses on the validity of the “language spoken at home” variable present in death records as they currently exist. This information is important since we use it to attribute a language status to the deceased based on this variable, especially for the mortality analysis with relation to linguistic group.
In our work, language is a health determinant. Therefore, it is used as a discriminating factor, which has rarely been the case in Quebec up until now. Some ecological studies have indirectly taken a look at linguistic communities since they were interested in neighbourhood and socioeconomic status. Other studies that took place between 1970 and 1980 have used ethnicity, which was formerly recorded in the death record. Since the early 1980s, more interest has been displayed towards the language spoken at home but it was mostly for demographic purposes, not sanitary ones. Mortality was used to anticipate population growth or measure the demolinguistic component of Quebec’s population without directly looking at the health condition of linguistic communities. However, in certain studies, authors have raised some questions about how reliable the “language spoken at home” variable recorded on the death certificate actually is. Our study specifically pushes this question further.
The Fichier des décès du Québec is widely used for mortality analysis, still not all variables carry the same weight . The “language” variable that should be included on the death certificate is missing in 6% to 13% of cases, depending on the year for the period studied (1990 to 2007). Within that timeframe, that variable is missing for 108,635 out of 959,786 deaths, which represents an overall proportion of 11.3%.