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Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2013 Jul 8;11:114. doi: 10.1186/1477-7525-11-114.

Absence of social desirability bias in the evaluation of chronic disease self-management interventions.

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  • 1Medical Clinic for Psychosomatics, Charit√©-University Medicine Berlin, Charit√©platz 1, Berlin, Germany.



Bias due to social desirability has long been of concern to evaluators relying on self-report data. It is conceivable that health program evaluation is particularly susceptible to social desirability bias as individuals may be inclined to present themselves or certain health behaviors in a more positive light and/or appease the course leader. Thus, the influence of social desirability bias on self-report outcomes was explored in the present study.


Data were collected from 331 participants of group-based chronic disease self-management interventions using the highly robust eight-scale Health Education Impact Questionnaire (heiQ) and the 13-item short form Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MC-C). The majority of self-management courses were run by community-based organizations across Australia between February 2005 and December 2006 where 6 to 12 individuals have the opportunity to develop considerable rapport with course leaders and each other over about six weeks. Pre-test data were collected on the first day of courses, while post-test and social desirability scores were assessed at the end of courses. A model of partial mediation within the framework of structural equation modeling was developed with social desirability as the mediating variable between pre-test and post-test.


The 'Defensiveness' factor of the MC-C showed clear association with heiQ pre-test data, a prerequisite for investigating mediation; however, when investigating the eight full pre-test/post-test models 'Defensiveness' was only associated with one heiQ scale. This effect was small, explaining 8% of the variance in the model. No other meditational effects through social desirability were observed.


The overall lack of association of social desirability with heiQ outcomes was surprising as it had been expected that it would explain at least some of the variance observed between pre-test and post-test. With the assumption that the MC-C captures the propensity for an individual to provide socially desirable answers, this study concludes that change scores in chronic disease self-management program evaluation are not biased by social desirability.

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