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J Clin Epidemiol. 1990;43(11):1123-9.

The validity of single-item, self-assessment questions as measures of adult physical activity.

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University of Texas Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health, Houston 77225.


Individual energy expenditure (kcal/kg/day) was calculated from a detailed set of questions from the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Supplement of the 1985 National Health Interview Survey. Responses to three single-item, self-assessment questions were compared to the energy expenditure variable to test criterion validity. Spearman's correlation coefficient revealed moderate correlations between energy expenditure and corresponding levels of self-assessed leisure-time physical activity for each single-item question (r = 0.14 to 0.41). For purposes of measuring prevalence of physical activity, the energy expenditure variable was used to categorize individuals into activity levels. The single-item questions were found to have Spearman's correlations with the categorical measures ranging from 0.11 to 0.37 for leisure-time activities. Generally higher correlations were found for males and younger age groups (18-34 years). The relationships were interpreted as being weak relative to an expected correlation of 0.75 for criterion validation. However, the single-item questions show promise for obtaining proxy estimates of the degree of leisure-time physical activity in a population.

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