Test-retest reliability of an icon/calendar-based questionnaire used to assess occupational history

Am J Ind Med. 2001 Nov;40(5):512-22. doi: 10.1002/ajim.1119.


Background: Self-reported work histories can be critical for both epidemiologic and clinical purposes. However, the complexity of some work histories, such as those of migrant farm workers, can hamper recall, resulting in inaccurate reporting. Memory aids may reduce such error. This study assesses the reliability of work histories collected using such aids in the form of an icon/calendar-based questionnaire.

Methods: Thirty-one males engaged in farmwork and other manual labor for a median 28 years (range: 10-64) were interviewed twice, 8-14 months apart, about their lifetime employment. In each interview, subjects were asked about important life events, which were recorded with icons on a calendar. They were then asked to recount their work history, including for each job the tasks, crops or products handled, starting and ending dates, and location. This information was recorded, job-by-job, on the calendar with icons.

Results: Interquestionnaire agreement of cumulative reported employment duration (as measured by the correlation coefficient) was moderate to high across all time periods for certain crops (e.g., r = 0.69-0.92 for apple-related work), by location (e.g., r = 0.76-0.95 for Washington State), and for agricultural work in general (r = 0.67-0.94), but was lower for specific tasks. Agreement of job counts was high for total work history for certain crops (e.g., r = 0.93 for apple-related work), by location (e.g., r = 0.90 for Washington State), and for agricultural work in general (r = 0.89), but paradoxically decreased with proximity to the interview date. Agreement of both measures tended to be highest for those tasks and crops in which subjects reported spending the most time. Categorization of subjects into tertiles on the basis of either cumulative duration or counts produced results similar to those observed for job counts.

Conclusions: The icon-calendar questionnaire is an effective tool for estimating cumulative duration of certain work categorizations among subjects with complex work histories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington