Characterising the extent of misreporting of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes using the Australian Health Survey

Karen Louise Peterson, Jane Philippa Jacobs, Steven Allender, Laura Veronica Alston, Melanie Nichols

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Measuring and monitoring the true prevalence of risk factors for chronic conditions is essential for evidence-based policy and health service planning. Understanding the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Australia relies heavily on self-report measures from surveys, such as the triennial National Health Survey. However, international evidence suggests that self-reported data may substantially underestimate actual risk factor prevalence. This study sought to characterise the extent of misreporting in a large, nationally-representative health survey that included objective measures of clinical risk factors for CVD. Methods: This study employed a cross-sectional analysis of 7269 adults aged 18 years and over who provided fasting blood samples as part of the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey. Self-reported prevalence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes was compared to measured prevalence, and univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses identified socio-demographic characteristics associated with underreporting for each risk factor. Results: Approximately 16 % of the total sample underreported high blood pressure (measured to be at high risk but didn't report a diagnosis), 33 % underreported high cholesterol, and 1.3 % underreported diabetes. Among those measured to be at high risk, 68 % did not report a diagnosis for high blood pressure, nor did 89 % of people with high cholesterol and 29 % of people with high fasting plasma glucose. Younger age was associated with underreporting high blood pressure and high cholesterol, while lower area-level disadvantage and higher income were associated with underreporting diabetes. Conclusions: Underreporting has important implications for CVD risk factor surveillance, policy planning and decisions, and clinical best-practice guidelines. This analysis highlights concerns about the reach of primary prevention efforts in certain groups and implications for patients who may be unaware of their disease risk status.

Original languageEnglish
Article number695
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2016


  • Cardiovascular disease/epidemiology
  • Diabetes mellitus/epidemiology
  • Health surveys
  • Hypercholesterolemia/epidemiology
  • Hypertension/epidemiology
  • Logistic models
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Odds ratio
  • Self disclosure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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