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RR903 - Review on the validity and reliability of self-reported work-related illness

Self-report is an efficient and accepted means of assessing population characteristics, risk factors, and diseases and is frequently used in occupational health studies. Little is known on the validity of self-reports used to measure work-related illness. This study reviews the evidence on the reliability and validity of workers’ self-reported work-related ill health.

For epidemiological research, there is an extensive choice in valid and reliable self-report measures on musculoskeletal disorders and mental health problems. The agreement on an individual level between the result of expert assessment and self-report is low to moderate, with substantial numbers of false positives and false negatives. On the group or population level, the agreement between the results of self-report measures and results coming from external sources can be better, especially when using self-diagnose questionnaires and questionnaires that use a specific combination score of health symptoms instead of symptom-based questionnaires. We could not come to a final judgment on the value of self-reported work-related illness in general, as the evidence is scarce. The validity depends on the purpose and context for which it is used and the health condition that is measured.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2012-01-18