"Attacks" or "Whistling": Impact of Questionnaire Wording on Wheeze Prevalence Estimates.
journal contributionposted on 26.01.2016, 12:21 by A. M. Pescatore, B. D. Spycher, Caroline Sarah Beardsmore, C. E. Kuehni
BACKGROUND: Estimates of prevalence of wheeze depend on questionnaires. However, wording of questions may vary between studies. We investigated effects of alternative wording on estimates of prevalence and severity of wheeze, and associations with risk factors. METHODS: White and South Asian children from a population-based cohort (UK) were randomly assigned to two groups and followed up at one, four and six years (1998, 2001, 2003). Parents were asked either if their child ever had "attacks of wheeze" (attack group, N=535), or "wheezing or whistling in the chest" (whistling group, N=2859). All other study aspects were identical, including questions about other respiratory symptoms. RESULTS: Prevalence of wheeze ever was lower in the attack group than in the whistling group for all surveys (32 vs. 40% in white children aged one year, p<0.001). Prevalence of other respiratory symptoms did not differ between groups. Wheeze tended to be more severe in the attack group. The strength of association with risk factors was comparable in the two groups. CONCLUSIONS: The wording of questions on wheeze can affect estimates of prevalence, but has less impact on measured associations with risk factors. Question wording is a potential source of between-study-heterogeneity in meta-analyses.