Reporting biases in self-assessed health

By | October 13, 2019

The new paper Reporting biases in self-assessed physical and cognitive health status of older Europeans explores which demographic characteristics substantially bias self-reported physical and cognitive health status of older Europeans. The analysis utilises micro-data for 19 European countries from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe to compare performance-tested outcomes of mobility and memory with their self-reported equivalents.

The relative importance of the bias in self-reported health is mostly due to reporting heterogeneities between countries and age groups, whereas gender contributes little to the discrepancy. Concordance of mobility and cognition measures is highly related; however, differences in reporting behaviour due to education and cultural background have a larger impact on self-assessed memory than on self-assessed mobility.

Southern as well as Central and Eastern Europeans are much more likely to misreport their physical and cognitive abilities than Northern and Western Europeans. Overall, the results suggest that comparisons of self-reported health between countries and age groups are prone to significant biases, whereas comparisons between genders are credible for most European countries. These findings are crucial given that self-assessed data are often the only information available to researchers and policymakers when asking health-related questions.