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Using life history calendars to improve measurement of lifetime experience with mental disorders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2019


William G. Axinn
Affiliation:
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St, Ann Arbor, MI48104-2321, USA
Stephanie Chardoul
Affiliation:
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St, Ann Arbor, MI48104-2321, USA
Heather Gatny
Affiliation:
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St, Ann Arbor, MI48104-2321, USA
Dirgha J. Ghimire
Affiliation:
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St, Ann Arbor, MI48104-2321, USA
Jordan W. Smoller
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Harvard Medical School; Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA
Yang Zhang
Affiliation:
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St, Ann Arbor, MI48104-2321, USA
Kate M. Scott
Affiliation:
Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Background

Retrospective reports of lifetime experience with mental disorders greatly underestimate the actual experiences of disorder because recall error biases reporting of earlier life symptoms downward. This fundamental obstacle to accurate reporting has many adverse consequences for the study and treatment of mental disorders. Better tools for accurate retrospective reporting of mental disorder symptoms have the potential for broad scientific benefits.

Methods

We designed a life history calendar (LHC) to support this task, and randomized more than 1000 individuals to each arm of a retrospective diagnostic interview with and without the LHC. We also conducted a careful validation with the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition.

Results

Results demonstrate that—just as with frequent measurement longitudinal studies—use of an LHC in retrospective measurement can more than double reports of lifetime experience of some mental disorders.

Conclusions

The LHC significantly improves retrospective reporting of mental disorders. This tool is practical for application in both large cross-sectional surveys of the general population and clinical intake of new patients.


Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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Axinn et al. supplementary material

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