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Epidemiol Infect. 2012 Apr;140(4):744-52. doi: 10.1017/S0950268811001130. Epub 2011 Jun 21.

Collecting close-contact social mixing data with contact diaries: reporting errors and biases.

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ETH Zurich, Institute for Environmental Decisions, Natural and Social Science Interface, Zurich, Switzerland.


The analysis of contact networks plays a major role to understanding the dynamics of disease spread. Empirical contact data is often collected using contact diaries. Such studies rely on self-reported perceptions of contacts, and arrangements for validation are usually not made. Our study was based on a complete network study design that allowed for the analysis of reporting accuracy in contact diary studies. We collected contact data of the employees of three research groups over a period of 1 work week. We found that more than one third of all reported contacts were only reported by one out of the two involved contact partners. Non-reporting is most frequent in cases of short, non-intense contact. We estimated that the probability of forgetting a contact of ≤5 min duration is greater than 50%. Furthermore, the number of forgotten contacts appears to be proportional to the total number of contacts.

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