"Attacks" or "Whistling": Impact of Questionnaire Wording on Wheeze Prevalence Estimates.

Pescatore, Anina M; Spycher, Ben D; Beardsmore, Caroline S; Kuehni, Claudia E (2015). "Attacks" or "Whistling": Impact of Questionnaire Wording on Wheeze Prevalence Estimates. PLoS ONE, 10(6), e0131618. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0131618

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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.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Pescatore, Anina; Spycher, Ben and Kühni, Claudia


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Public Library of Science




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

11 Feb 2016 10:19

Last Modified:

10 Sep 2017 13:24

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:






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