Illness - a fact or an experience?

  1. Two types of information
  2. A factual question also requires interpretation and assessment
  3. "It just didn't occur to me"
  4. "It is not any real illness"
  5. Factual information – is it really available?

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Factual information – is it really available?

The borderline between fact and subjective view is not clear especially in questions concerning illnesses. It is evident that listing of illnesses produces a different number and different kinds of answers than a simple question relying on the respondent's interpretation and recalling. The researcher may also try to control the fact content of the responses gained by definitions that partly exclude responses based on personal experiences and definitions of illnesses differing from one another. For this reason, in the final questionnaire it was decided to use the question mode where illnesses are listed one by one.

Illness is in the end an experience whose reporting cannot be controlled all the way. Symptoms people have may fulfil the criteria for illnesses set in the definition but ultimately the respondent's own experience of the nature of illness and the harm its causes influence responding as does the idea of what illness as a concept means. The context of asking - the Labour Force Survey - also guides the respondent's interpretation of illnesses, even if in the question formulation reporting of illnesses is not restricted to the viewpoint of work capacity.

The multidimensionality of the information gained does not remove the basis from good questionnaire and question design, which is still important even if the world being measured is not always divided clearly into different types of information. However, it is important to understand the real nature of assumed factual information. Only then it can be known what was really measured and what can be interpreted from comparisons between countries.


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Houtkoop-Steenstra, Hanneke 2000. Interaction and the Standardized Survey Interview. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Okkonen, K.-M. 2010. TYTI AHM2011: Pre-testing of the work capacity and employment questionnaire. Questionnaire testing series 1/10 Unpublished. Statistics Finland, Helsinki. (In Finnish)
Design standards of interview questionnaires. 2001. Internal working instructions. Statistics Finland, Helsinki. (In Finnish)
Viterna, J. S. – Maynard, D. W. 2002. How Uniform Is Standardization? Variation Within and Across Survey Research Centers Regarding Protocols for Interviewing. In: Standardization and Tacit Knowledge. Ed. H. Houtkoop-Steenstra et al.

Alkuun Edellinen Seuraava

Last updated 26.9.2011