Sensitivity and Specificity of Recalled Vasomotor Symptoms in a Multiethnic Cohort

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Many epidemiologic studies include symptom checklists assessing recall of symptoms over a specified time period. Little research exists regarding the congruence of short-term symptom recall with daily self-reporting. The authors assessed the sensitivity and specificity of retrospective reporting of vasomotor symptoms using data from 567 participants in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (1997–2002). Daily assessments were considered the “gold standard” for comparison with retrospective vasomotor symptom reporting. Logistic regression was used to identify predictors of sensitivity and specificity for retrospective reporting of any vasomotor symptoms versus none in the past 2 weeks. Sensitivity and specificity were relatively constant over a 3-year period. Sensitivity ranged from 78% to 84% and specificity from 85% to 89%. Sensitivity was lower among women with fewer symptomatic days in the daily assessments and higher among women reporting vasomotor symptoms in the daily assessment on the day of retrospective reporting. Specificity was negatively associated with general symptom awareness and past smoking and was positively associated with routine physical activity and Japanese ethnicity. Because many investigators rely on symptom recall, it is important to evaluate reporting accuracy, which was relatively high for vasomotor symptoms in this study. The approach presented here would be useful for examining other symptoms or behaviors.

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