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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Educational differences in the validity of self-reported physical activity

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Annemarie N. E. Winckers, Joreintje D. Mackenbach, Sofie Compernolle, Mary Nicolaou, Hidde P. van der Ploeg, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Johannes Brug, Jeroen Lakerveld
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

AW, JD and JL initiated this specific study and have made substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data and analysis and interpretation of data. All authors (AW, JM, SC, MN, HP, IB, JB, JL) have been involved in drafting the manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content and have given final approval of the version to be published.



The assessment of physical activity for surveillance or population based studies is usually done with self-report questionnaires. However, bias in self-reported physical activity may be greater in lower educated than in higher educated populations. The aim of the present study is to describe educational differences in the validity of self-reported physical activity.


We included 196 healthy adults (age 57 ± 15.4, of whom 17 % low, 24 % medium and 59 % high educated). Criterion validity of an adapted International Physical Activity Questionnaire was assessed against the ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer.


While criterion validity of self-reported physical activity was low to moderate in the total sample (Spearman rho ranged from 0.16 to 0.27, depending on the variables used), the validity in lower educated respondents was poor (-0.07 to 0.05).


The results confirm the hypothesis that self-report physical activity questionnaires are less valid in lower educated populations.
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