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Am J Public Health. 1981 June; 71(6): 620–625.
PMCID: PMC1619843

Choosing measures of health status for individuals in general populations.


This paper offers suggestions to adi the selection of appropriate instruments and data gathering methods for studies that require measures of personal health status applicable in general populations. Before selecting measures, the reason for studying health status must be identified. Next, definitional issues arise when attempting to specify the components of health that are to be studied. Evidence supports restriction of the definition of personal health status to its physical and mental components, rather than including social circumstances as well. In evaluating the suitability of available measures, three features must be considered: 1) practicality in terms of administration, respondent burden, and analysis; 2) reliability in terms of the study design and group or individual comparisons; 3) validity, in terms of providing information about the particular health components of interest to the study. Evaluating validity will be difficult for most available measures; careful attention to item content will be helpful in choosing appropriate measures. Despite problems in development and interpretation, overall health status indicators will prove useful to many studies and should be considered, as should both subjective and objective measures of health status. Given that the reasons to measure health have been identified, the aspects of health to be measured specified, and attention paid to their suitability, appropriate measures may often be found among those now available.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Brook RH, Ware JE, Jr, Davies-Avery A, Stewart AL, Donald CA, Rogers WH, Williams KN, Johnston SA. Overview of adult health measures fielded in Rand's health insurance study. Med Care. 1979 Jul;17(7 Suppl):iii–131. [PubMed]
  • Kaplan RM, Bush JW, Berry CC. Health status: types of validity and the index of well-being. Health Serv Res. 1976 Winter;11(4):478–507. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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