Self-reporting and secondary informant reporting in health assessments among elderly people

OBJECTIVE: To analyze whether the explanatory model for health assessments among elderly people based on self-reporting is comparable with the model based on secondary informant reporting, and whether the secondary informant's self-assessed health influences the health assessment among these elderly people. METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study on 230 pairs consisting of one elderly individual and one secondary informant, conducted in Belo Horizonte, Southeastern Brazil, in 2007. The sociodemographic and health variables of the elderly people were investigated by means of a structured interview. Multiple logistic regression was used to analyze associations with self-assessed poor health among the elderly individuals and with the information provided by the secondary informants. RESULTS: In the model based on self-reporting, the variable most strongly associated with poor health assessment among these elderly individuals was the presence of limitations or disabilities relating to performing activities of daily living and/or mobility. In the model based on the secondary informant, the most important explanatory variable was the number of chronic diseases presented by the elderly individual. Furthermore, the chance that the secondary informant would assess the elderly individual's health as poor was three times greater when this informant assessed his own health as poor. CONCLUSIONS: The results showed significant differences between the health assessment model for elderly people based on the individual's own responses and the model based on a secondary informant's responses. The elderly individuals tended to place value on their limitations or disabilities relating to performing activities of daily living and mobility, while secondary informants tended to place value on the diagnoses of chronic diseases. Secondary informants with poor self-assessed health presented almost three times greater chance of reporting elderly individuals' health as the same as their own. Thus, self-reported information better reflects individuals' health conditions than do reports from secondary informants.

Health of the Elderly; Health Evaluation; Self Assessment; Observer Variation; Health Knowledge, Attitudes and Practice; Bias; Cross-Sectional Studies


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