Influence of question structure on the recall of self-reported drug use

J Clin Epidemiol. 2000 Mar 1;53(3):273-7. doi: 10.1016/s0895-4356(99)00167-5.

Abstract

Epidemiological studies often rely on self-reported information as a source of drug exposure. Several studies have evaluated the accuracy of self-reported information on drug use. The influence of question structure on the accuracy of recall, however, has not been studied extensively in these studies. In this study we examined the recall accuracy of questionnaire information on drug use in a ongoing public health survey with special attention to the influence of question structure on sensitivity of recall. A sample of 372 hypertensive subjects for whom questionnaire information and pharmacy records were available was examined. Self-reported information on drug use was obtained through questions about medications used for a specific condition and one final open-ended question. This information was compared with the pharmacy medication history. About 71% of all drugs that were currently in use according to the pharmacy records were recalled through the self-administered questionnaire, and 94% of all drugs mentioned in the questionnaire could be traced in the pharmacy records. Recall sensitivity was higher for questions about medications used for a specific indication (88%) than for the open-ended question (41%). The type of drug that was used might have caused part of this difference in recall. We conclude that questionnaire structure might be of influence on the accuracy of recall of self-reported drug use, and more attention should be paid to the structure of questions on drug use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Pharmacies
  • Pharmacoepidemiology*
  • Records
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Disclosure
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*