University of Wisconsin–Madison

Response option order and scale orientation effects on the web-based measurement of self-rated health

While self-rated health (SRH) is widely used to study health across a range of disciplines, little research examines how features of its measurement in surveys influence respondents’ answers and the overall quality of the resulting measurement. To address these shortcomings, UWSC researchers and Dana Garbarski (Loyola University Chicago) examined how response option order and scale orientation affect responses in an online experiment. They find no main effects of response scale orientation and no interaction between response option order and scale orientation. However, they find main effects of response option order: mean SRH and the proportion in “excellent” or “very good” health are higher (better) and the proportion in “fair” or “poor” health lower when the response options are ordered from “excellent” to “poor” compared to “poor” to “excellent.” They also see heterogeneous treatment effects of response option ordering across respondents’ characteristics associated with ability. Overall, the implications for the validity and cross-survey comparability of SRH are likely considerable for response option ordering and minimal for scale orientation.

Garbarski, Dana, Nora Cate Schaeffer and Jennifer Dykema. 2018. “The Effects of Features of Survey Measurement on Self-Rated Health: Response Option Order and Scale Orientation.” Applied Research in Quality of Life.