Online version of the self-administered food frequency questionnaire for the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study for the Next Generation (JPHC-NEXT) protocol: Relative validity, usability, and comparison with a printed questionnaire

J Epidemiol. 2017 Sep;27(9):435-446. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Jun 30.


Background: Online dietary assessment tools offer advantages over printed questionnaires, such as the automatic and direct data storage of answers, and have the potential to become valuable research methods. We developed an online survey system (web-FFQ) for the existing printed FFQ used in the JPHC-NEXT protocol, the platform of a large-scale genetic cohort study. Here, we examined the validity of ranking individuals according to dietary intake using this web-FFQ and its usability compared with the printed questionnaire (print-FFQ) for combined usage.

Methods: We included 237 men and women aged 40-74 years from five areas specified in the JPHC-NEXT protocol. From 2012 to 2013, participants were asked to provide 12-day weighed food records (12d-WFR) as the reference intake and to respond to the print- and web-FFQs. Spearman's correlation coefficients (CCs) between estimates using the web-FFQ and 12d-WFR were calculated. Cross-classification of intakes was compared with those using the print-FFQ.

Results: Most participants (83%) answered that completing the web-FFQ was comparable to or easier than completing the printed questionnaire. The median value of CCs across energy and 53 nutrients for men and women was 0.47 (range, 0.10-0.86) and 0.46 (range, 0.16-0.69), respectively. CCs for individual nutrient intakes were closely similar to those based on the print-FFQ, irrespective of response location. Cross-classification by quintile of intake based on two FFQs was reasonably accurate for many nutrients and food groups.

Conclusion: This online survey system is a reasonably valid measure for ranking individuals by intake for many nutrients, like the printed FFQ. Mixing of two FFQs for exposure assessments in epidemiological studies appears acceptable.

Keywords: Food frequency questionnaire; Middle-aged adults; Online dietary assessment; Usability; Validity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Printing
  • Prospective Studies
  • Public Health
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • User-Computer Interface