The validity of self-reported prescription medication use among adolescents varied by therapeutic class

J Clin Epidemiol. 2008 Jul;61(7):714-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2007.11.013.


Objective: Validation studies of self-reported medication use in adolescents have been scarce. The objective of this study was to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of self-reported use of medication using a prescription database as reference standard.

Study design and setting: The study population consisted of a cohort of 2,613 adolescents aged 15-16 years from the Norwegian youth health survey in 2004 and 2005. Self-reported data on medication use were compared with data from the Norwegian Prescription Database which contains information from all prescription dispensed at Norwegian pharmacies.

Results: Sensitivity for self-reported questions on medication use was highest for contraceptive pills 99.2% (95% CI 97.7-100) compared to antiasthmatics 79.1% (66.9-91.2), painkillers 48.5% (36.7-60.4), and psychotropic drugs 75.0% (35.6-95.6). Specificity values of self-reported information of psychotropic drugs 89.6% (87.8-91.5) and antiasthmatics 87.4% (85.4-89.5) were higher than for painkillers 80.0% (77.5-82.4) and contraceptive pills 76.2% (72.3-80.1).

Conclusion: Validity of self-reported previous medication use among adolescents differed by the therapeutic classes of medication. The highest sensitivity was observed for contraceptive pills and lowest for prescribed painkillers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / administration & dosage
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Psychotropic Drugs