Changes in the quality of cause-of-death statistics in Brazil: garbage codes among registered deaths in 1996–2016

Published September 30, 2020, in Population Health Metrics (opens in a new window)


Registered causes in vital statistics classified as garbage codes (GC) are considered indicators of quality of cause-of-death data. Our aim was to describe temporal changes in this quality in Brazil, and the leading GCs according to levels assembled for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. We also assessed socioeconomic differences in the burden of different levels of GCs at a regional level.


We extracted data from the Brazilian Mortality Information System from 1996 to 2016. All three- and four-digit ICD-10 codes considered GC were selected and classified into four categories, according to the GBD study proposal. GC levels 1 and 2 are the most damaging unusable codes, or major GCs. Proportionate distribution of deaths by GC levels according selected variables were performed. Age-standardized mortality rates after correction of underreporting of deaths were calculated to investigate temporal relationships as was the linear association adjusted for completeness between GC rates in states and the Sociodemographic Index (SDI) from the GBD study, for 1996–2005 and 2006–2016. We classified Brazilian states into three classes of development by applying tertiles cutoffs in the SDI state-level estimates.


Age-standardized mortality rates due to GCs in Brazil decreased from 1996 to 2016, particularly level 1 GCs. The most important GC groups were ill-defined causes (level 1) in 1996, and pneumonia unspecified (level 4) in 2016. At state level, there was a significant inverse association between SDI and the rate of level 1–2 GCs in 1996–2005, but both SDI and completeness had a non-expected significant direct association with levels 3–4. In 2006–2016, states with higher SDIs tended to have lower rates of all types of GCs. Mortality rates due to major GCs decreased in all three SDI classes in 1996–2016, but GC levels 3–4 decreased only in the high SDI category. States classified in the low or medium SDI groups were responsible for the most important decline of major GCs.


Occurrence of major GCs are associated with socioeconomic determinants over time in Brazil. Their reduction with decreasing disparity in rates between socioeconomic groups indicates progress in reducing inequalities and strengthening cause-of-death statistics in the country.

Read full article (opens in a new window)


Franca E, Ishitani LH, Teixeira R, Duncan BB, Marinho F, Naghavi M. Changes in the quality of cause-of-death statistics in Brazil: garbage codes among registered deaths in 1996–2016. Population Health Metrics. 30 September 2020. doi:10.1186/s12963-020-00221-4.