Background There is an ongoing discussion in the literature regarding the assessment of osteoarthritis in research.1 Self-report is often regarded as inferior as it corresponds poorly with clinical diagnosis.2 Moreover, half the participants who report having the condition, report not having it at a later interview.3
Objectives To examine whether longitudinal variations in reporting doctor-diagnosed arthritis reflect concurrent fluctuations in anti-inflammatory drug use, joint pain/stiffness and physical functioning.
Methods Data were from 8,153 participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Based on self-report of doctor-diagnosed arthritis on surveys in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010, the participants were classified according to pattern of arthritis reporting (eg. 0-0-0-0 = “no” on all surveys, 0-1-0-1 = “no-yes-no-yes”). Anti-inflammatory drug use was derived from self-reported medication data. Frequency of joint pain/stiffness was assessed as never/rarely/sometimes versus often. Physical functioning was assessed with the SF-36.
Results In this sample, 42.9% reported having arthritis on at least one survey, with half of these cases reporting not having arthritis at a later survey. Proportions of participants using anti-inflammatory drugs and reporting joint pain/stiffness were higher and mean physical functioning was lower when participants reported having arthritis.
Conclusions Variation in self-reported arthritis coincided with fluctuations in disease severity on the symptom and functional level. Variations in reporting of arthritis should not be ignored in longitudinal studies.
Nelson AE, Jordan JM. Defining osteoarthritis: a moving target. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2011.
Kriegsman DM, et al. Self-reports and general practitioner information on the presence of chronic diseases in community dwelling elderly. A study on the accuracy of patients’ self-reports and on determinants of inaccuracy. J Clin Epidemiol 1996;49(12):1407-17.
Beckett M, et al. Do health interview surveys yield reliable data on chronic illness among older respondents? Am J Epidemiol 2000;151(3):315-23.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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