Background Socioeconomic circumstances are routinely measured using government-held data e.g. the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for health research and service planning. However, alternative approaches may be necessary as key datasets (e.g. the decennial census and specific welfare claims) may not be available in the future. ‘Big data’ from the private sector could help meet this need. Experian collates diverse information to produce socio-demographic and lifestyle variables, primarily for marketing purposes. Unlike traditional deprivation measures, these variables are intended to reflect affluence and consumption patterns. We assessed the overlap between deprivation measures and Experian’s British population segmentation (Mosaic Groups) to establish the utility and feasibility of bringing together commercial and health data for public health purposes.
Methods Experian Mosaic classifies all UK consumers into 15 distinct groups at the postcode level which comprehensively describes their socio-economic and sub-cultural behaviour, based on 1,754,408 unique postcodes (mean population 39). Thus, each postcode can be allocated to only one Mosaic Group. These data were linked to widely used deprivation measures, i.e. Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and its devolved equivalents for Scottish (SIMD) and Welsh (WIMD) populations and Carstairs quintiles ranked from 1 to 5 (most to least deprived) based on full postcode. Cochran-Armitage tests were used to determine if there were significant trends in the proportions of deprivation quintiles within each Mosaic Group.
Results The Experian segmentation showed good population coverage; 92% of the UK population was included in the dataset. IMD quintiles and Mosaic Groups were associated (all P-values for trend <0.05); for example, the proportions increased with deprivation in Municipal Challenge (0.1% and 73.6% in least and most deprived quintiles) and Family Basics (1.1% and 50.2%, respectively). For some Mosaic Groups the proportions increased with decreasing deprivation, e.g. Prestige Positions (0.3% and 67.1% in most and least deprived, respectively). However, there were Mosaic Groups (e.g. City Prosperity, Country Living) that showed no consistent trend with deprivation, indicating Mosaic is capturing a different aspect of socio-economic circumstances. Similar patterns were found for Carstairs and measures of IMD for Scottish and Welsh populations.
Conclusion Experian Mosaic Groups appear to capture different aspects of socioeconomic circumstances to deprivation measures. A key limitation of our study to date is the lack of investigation of health outcomes. These marketing data may provide new insights into the social determinants of health at a very small area level and could help plan service delivery.
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