Social desirability and self-reported health risk behaviors in web-based research: three longitudinal studies

BMC Public Health. 2010 Nov 23;10:720. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-720.


Background: These studies sought to investigate the relation between social desirability and self-reported health risk behaviors (e.g., alcohol use, drug use, smoking) in web-based research.

Methods: Three longitudinal studies (Study 1: N = 5612, 51% women; Study 2: N = 619, 60%; Study 3: N = 846, 59%) among randomly selected members of two online panels (Dutch; German) using several social desirability measures (Marlowe-Crowne Scale; Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding; The Social Desirability Scale-17) were conducted.

Results: Social desirability was not associated with self-reported current behavior or behavior frequency. Socio-demographics (age; sex; education) did not moderate the effect of social desirability on self-reported measures regarding health risk behaviors.

Conclusions: The studies at hand provided no convincing evidence to throw doubt on the usefulness of the Internet as a medium to collect self-reports on health risk behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires