Validity of self-reported mechanical demands for occupational epidemiologic research of musculoskeletal disorders
Objectives To describe the relation of the measured validity of self-reported mechanical demands (self-reports) with the quality of validity assessments and the variability of the assessed exposure in the study population.
Methods We searched for original articles, published between 1990 and 2008, reporting the validity of self-reports in three major databases: EBSCOhost, Web of Science and PubMed. Identified assessments were classified by methodological characteristics (eg, type of self-report and reference method) and exposure dimension was measured. We also classified assessments by the degree of comparability between the self-report and the employed reference method, and the variability of the assessed exposure in the study population. Finally, we examined the association of the published validity (r) with this degree of comparability, as well as with the variability of the exposure variable in the study population.
Results Of the 490 assessments identified, 75% used observation-based reference measures and 55% tested self-reports of posture duration and movement frequency. Frequently, validity studies did not report demographic information (eg, education, age, and gender distribution). Among assessments reporting correlations as measure of validity, studies with a better match between the self-report and the reference method, and studies conducted in more heterogeneous populations tended to report higher correlations [odds ratio (OR) 2.03, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.89–4.65 and OR 1.60, 95% CI 0.96–2.61, respectively].
Conclusions The reported data support the hypothesis that validity depends on study-specific factors often not examined. Experimentally manipulating the testing setting could lead to a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of self-reported information.
Key terms epidemiologic research; inter-method reliability; mechanical demand; mechanical exposure; MSD; musculoskeletal disorder; occupational epidemiologic research; occupational research; review; self-assessment; self-report; self-reported information; validity