Study objective: To assess the representativeness of survey participants by systematically comparing volunteers in a national health and sexuality survey with the Australian population in terms of self reported health status (including the SF-36) and a wide range of demographic characteristics.
Design: A cross sectional sample of Australian residents were compared with demographic data from the 1996 Australian census and health data from the 1995 National Health Survey.
Setting: The Australian population.
Participants: A stratified random sample of adults aged 18–59 years drawn from the Australian electoral roll, a compulsory register of voters. Interviews were completed with 1784 people, representing 40% of those initially selected (58% of those for whom a valid telephone number could be located).
Main results: Participants were of similar age and sex to the national population. Consistent with prior research, respondents had higher socioeconomic status, more education, were more likely to be employed, and less likely to be immigrants. The prevalence estimates, means, and variances of self reported mental and physical health measures (for example, SF-36 subscales, women’s health indicators, current smoking status) were similar to population norms.
Conclusions: These findings considerably strengthen inferences about the representativeness of data on health status from volunteer samples used in health and sexuality surveys.
- health surveys
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Funding: this study was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
Conflicts of interest: none.