BACKGROUND: Despite extensive use of self-rated health questions in youth studies, little is known about what such questions capture among adolescents. Hence, the aim of this study was to explore how adolescents interpret and reason when answering a question about self-rated health.
METHODS: A qualitative study using think-aloud interviews explored the question, "How do you feel most of the time?", using five response options ("Very good", "Rather good", "Neither good, nor bad", "Rather bad", and "Very bad"). The study involved 58 adolescents (29 boys and 29 girls) in lower secondary school (7th grade) and upper secondary school (12th grade) in Sweden.
RESULTS: Respondents' interpretations of the question about how they felt included social, mental, and physical aspects. Gender differences were found primarily in that girls emphasized stressors, while age differences were reflected mainly in the older respondents' inclusion of a wider variety of influences on their assessments. The five response options all demonstrated differences in self-rated health, and the respondents' understanding of the middle option, "Neither good, nor bad", varied widely. In the answering of potential sensitive survey questions, rationales for providing honest or biased answers were described.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of a self-rated health question including the word 'feel' captured a holistic view of health among adolescents. Differences amongst response options should be acknowledged when analyzing self-rated health questions. If anonymity is not feasible when answering questions on self-rated health, a high level of privacy is recommended to increase the likelihood of reliability.
2016. Vol. 16, 156
Self-rated health, Subjective health, Health assessment, Feel, Adolescence, Qualitative, Think-aloud interview, Cognitive interviewing, Sweden