Forgetting to remember or remembering to forget: a study of the recall period length in health care survey questions.
Kjellsson G., Clarke P., Gerdtham U-G.
Self-reported data on health care use is a key input in a range of studies. However, the length of recall period in self-reported health care questions varies between surveys, and this variation may affect the results of the studies. This study uses a large survey experiment to examine the role of the length of recall periods for the quality of self-reported hospitalization data by comparing registered with self-reported hospitalizations of respondents exposed to recall periods of one, three, six, or twelve months. Our findings have conflicting implications for survey design, as the preferred length of recall period depends on the objective of the analysis. For an aggregated measure of hospitalization, longer recall periods are preferred. For analysis oriented more to the micro-level, shorter recall periods may be considered since the association between individual characteristics (e.g., education) and recall error increases with the length of the recall period.