Journal of Public Health

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 371–380 | Cite as

Reliability and validity of a global question on self-reported chronic morbidity

  • Johan Van der Heyden
  • Dirk De Bacquer
  • Jean Tafforeau
  • Koen Van Herck
Original Article



A global question on chronic morbidity is included in many national health interview surveys. According to a recent EU Commission regulation, information on this item should be collected in all EU member states. However, little is known about the reliability and validity of such a question.

Subject and methods

The reliability of a global question on chronic morbidity was investigated among persons who participated in 2001 in both the Belgian health interview survey (HIS) and the national population census (n = 2,871) by using kappa statistics and logistic regression. In addition, data from the HIS 2001 and 2004 (n = 21,376) were used to study estimates and determinants of the sensitivity of this global chronic morbidity measure among people with specific chronic diseases.


In terms of reliability, the kappa statistic showed only moderate agreement (0.559; 95 % CI 0.523–0.594). Additionally, the sensitivity of the global question on chronic morbidity ranged from 49.9 to 87.2 %, depending on the type of disease. A much higher sensitivity was observed among people who rated their health status to be moderate to bad (adjusted OR 3.85; 95 % CI 3.17–4.69).


Self-reported chronic morbidity, measured by a single and global question, is a reasonably reliable instrument to measure ill health. The global instrument provides useful information on the burden of disease, because it takes into account the relevance of the diseases for the people themselves.


Chronic disease Validity Reliability Health interview survey 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johan Van der Heyden
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dirk De Bacquer
    • 2
  • Jean Tafforeau
    • 1
  • Koen Van Herck
    • 2
  1. 1.Scientific Institute of Public Health, Unit Surveys, Lifestyle and Chronic DiseasesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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