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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36328. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036328. Epub 2012 May 11.

A comparison of three methods to measure asthma in epidemiologic studies: results from the Danish National Birth Cohort.

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Centre for Fetal Programming, Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Asthma is a heterogeneous outcome and how the condition should be measured to best capture clinically relevant disease in epidemiologic studies remains unclear. We compared three methods of measuring asthma in the Danish National Birth Cohort (n>50.000). When the children were 7 years old, the prevalence of asthma was estimated from a self-administered questionnaire using parental report of doctor diagnoses, ICD-10 diagnoses from a population-based hospitalization registry, and data on anti-asthmatic medication from a population-based prescription registry. We assessed the agreement between the methods using kappa statistics. Highest prevalence of asthma was found using the prescription registry (32.2%) followed by the self-report (12.0%) and the hospitalization registry (6.6%). We found a substantial non-overlap between the methods (kappa = 0.21-0.38). When all three methods were combined the asthma prevalence was 3.6%. In conclusion, self-reported asthma, ICD-10 diagnoses from a hospitalization registry and data on anti-asthmatic medication use from a prescription registry lead to different prevalences of asthma in the same cohort of children. The non-overlap between the methods may be due to different abilities of the methods to identify cases with different phenotypes, in which case they should be treated as separate outcomes in future aetiological studies.

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