Inconsistency in the Self-report of Chronic Diseases in Panel Surveys: Developing an Adjudication Method for the Health and Retirement Study

Christine T. Cigolle, Corey Nagel, Caroline S. Blaum, Jersey Liang, Ana Quinones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

11 Scopus citations


Objectives Chronic disease data from longitudinal health interview surveys are frequently used in epidemiologic studies. These data may be limited by inconsistencies in self-report by respondents across waves. We examined disease inconsistencies in the Health and Retirement Study and investigated a multistep method of adjudication. We hypothesized a greater likelihood of inconsistences among respondents with cognitive impairment, of underrepresented race/ethnic groups, having lower education, or having less income/wealth. Method We analyzed Waves 1995-2010, including adults 51 years and older (N = 24,156). Diseases included hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and arthritis. We used questions about the diseases to formulate a multistep adjudication method to resolve inconsistencies across waves. Results Thirty percent had inconsistency in their self-report of diseases across waves, with cognitive impairment, proxy status, age, Hispanic ethnicity, and wealth as key predictors. Arthritis and hypertension had the most frequent inconsistencies; stroke and cancer, the fewest. Using a stepwise method, we adjudicated 60%-75% of inconsistent responses. Discussion Discrepancies in the self-report of diseases across multiple waves of health interview surveys are common. Differences in prevalence between original and adjudicated data may be substantial for some diseases and for some groups, (e.g., the cognitively impaired).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)901-912
Number of pages12
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 14 2018


  • Data collection
  • Epidemiologic measurement
  • Population aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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