Validation of questionnaire information on risk factors and disease outcomes in a prospective cohort study of women

Am J Epidemiol. 1986 May;123(5):894-900. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a114319.


To assess the validity of self-reported illnesses, medical records were reviewed for participants reporting major illnesses on the biennial follow-up questionnaires used in a prospective cohort study which began in 1976. In over 90% of cases of cancer of the breast, skin, large bowel, and thyroid, histopathology reports confirmed the subjects' self-report. Lower levels of confirmation were obtained for cancers of the lung, ovary, and uterus. Application of strict diagnostic criteria also gave lower levels of confirmation for myocardial infarction (68%) and stroke (66%). Among random samples of women reporting fractures and hypertension all records obtained confirmed self-reports. For self-reported elevated cholesterol levels 85.7% of self-reports were confirmed. Self-report is a valuable epidemiologic tool but may require additional documentation when the disease is diagnostically complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • Cholesterol