Objectives: This study used a recent national population survey on childhood and adolescent non-fatal injuries to investigate the effects of recall bias on estimating annual injury rates. Strategies to adjust for recall bias are recommended.
Methods: The 1988 Child Health Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey collected 12-month recall information on injuries that occurred to a national sample of 17,110 children aged 0 through 17 years. Using information on timing of interviews and reported injuries, estimated annual injury rates were calculated for 12 accumulative recall periods (from 1 to 12 months).
Results: The data show significantly declining rates, from 24.4 per 100 for a 1-month recall period to 14.7 per 100 for a 12-month recall period. The largest declines were found for the 0- through 4-year-old age group and for minor injuries. Rates of injuries that caused a school loss day, a bed day, surgery, or hospitalization showed higher stability throughout recall periods.
Conclusions: Varying recall periods have profound effects on the patterns of childhood injury epidemiology that emerge from the data. Recall periods of between 1 and 3 months are recommended for use in similar survey settings.