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Type: Journal article
Title: Bias of health estimates obtained from chronic disease and risk factor surveillance systems using telephone population surveys in Australia: results from a representative face-to-face survey in Australia from 2010 to 2013
Author: Dal Grande, E.
Chittleborough, C.
Campostrini, S.
Taylor, A.
Citation: BMC Medical Research Methodology, 2016; 16(1):44-1-44-13
Publisher: BioMed Central
Issue Date: 2016
ISSN: 1471-2288
Statement of
Eleonora Dal Grande, Catherine R. Chittleborough, Stefano Campostrini and Anne W. Taylor
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Emerging communication technologies have had an impact on population-based telephone surveys worldwide. Our objective was to examine the potential biases of health estimates in South Australia, a state of Australia, obtained via current landline telephone survey methodologies and to report on the impact of mobile-only household on household surveys. METHODS: Data from an annual multi-stage, systematic, clustered area, face-to-face population survey, Health Omnibus Survey (approximately 3000 interviews annually), included questions about telephone ownership to assess the population that were non-contactable by current telephone sampling methods (2006 to 2013). Univariable analyses (2010 to 2013) and trend analyses were conducted for sociodemographic and health indicator variables in relation to telephone status. Relative coverage biases (RCB) of two hypothetical telephone samples was undertaken by examining the prevalence estimates of health status and health risk behaviours (2010 to 2013): directory-listed numbers, consisting mainly of landline telephone numbers and a small proportion of mobile telephone numbers; and a random digit dialling (RDD) sample of landline telephone numbers which excludes mobile-only households. RESULTS: Telephone (landline and mobile) coverage in South Australia is very high (97 %). Mobile telephone ownership increased slightly (7.4 %), rising from 89.7 % in 2006 to 96.3 % in 2013; mobile-only households increased by 431 % over the eight year period from 5.2 % in 2006 to 27.6 % in 2013. Only half of the households have either a mobile or landline number listed in the telephone directory. There were small differences in the prevalence estimates for current asthma, arthritis, diabetes and obesity between the hypothetical telephone samples and the overall sample. However, prevalence estimate for diabetes was slightly underestimated (RCB value of -0.077) in 2013. Mixed RCB results were found for having a mental health condition for both telephone samples. Current smoking prevalence was lower for both hypothetical telephone samples in absolute differences and RCB values: -0.136 to -0.191 for RDD landline samples and -0.129 to -0.313 for directory-listed samples. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest landline-based sampling frames used in Australia, when appropriately weighted, produce reliable representative estimates for some health indicators but not for all. Researchers need to be aware of their limitations and potential biased estimates.
Keywords: Bias
Chronic conditions
Health surveys
Public health surveillance
Risk factors
Sampling frame
Telephone sampling methodology
Rights: © 2016 Dal Grande et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
DOI: 10.1186/s12874-016-0145-z
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