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Obes Rev. 2019 Oct;20(10):1426-1440. doi: 10.1111/obr.12881. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

Validity of self-reported recall of anthropometric measures in early life: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, Public Health Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Child Health Evaluative Sciences, The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Overweight and obesity in early life are risk factors for many adult-onset chronic diseases. The objective of this study was to assess the validity of self-reported recall of early life anthropometric measures. A systematic review was conducted by searching four electronic databases (PubMed, ProQuest, EMBASE, and MEDLINE). Studies were eligible if they evaluated the validity or reliability of self-reported recall by adults of their own body mass index, height, and/or weight during earlier life periods. Meta-analyses were conducted to pool correlation coefficients and mean differences. There were 15 studies included with a total of 17 477 participants. The mean pooled difference between self-reported recall of BMI compared with prospective measures was 0.06 kg/m2 (95% CI, -0.62 to 0.73), and the pooled correlation coefficient was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.65-0.79). Self-reported weight was also strongly correlated with reference standard measures (pooled r = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.72-0.90) with a small mean difference (0.87 kg; 95% CI, 0.19-1.56; I2 = 91%). Despite significant heterogeneity, the findings from this review suggest self-reported recall of early life body mass index, height, and weight may be valid measures. This evidence may inform life-course epidemiology studies considering the use of retrospective assessment of self-reported anthropometry.


anthropometry; childhood; measurement; validation studies


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