Volume 32 - Article 39 | Pages 1081–1098  

The reliability of in-home measures of height and weight in large cohort studies: Evidence from Add Health

By Jon Hussey, Quynh C. Nguyen, Eric A. Whitsel, Liana J. Richardson, Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Penny Gordon-Larsen, Joyce W. Tabor, Pamela P. Entzel, Kathleen Mullan Harris


Background: With the emergence of obesity as a global health issue, an increasing number of major demographic surveys are collecting measured anthropometric data. Yet little is known about the characteristics and reliability of these data.

Objective: We evaluate the accuracy and reliability of anthropometric data collected in the home during Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), compare our estimates to national standard, clinic-based estimates from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and, using both sources, provide a detailed anthropometric description of young adults in the United States.

Methods: The reliability of Add Health in-home anthropometric measures was estimated from repeat examinations of a random subsample of study participants. A digit preference analysis evaluated the quality of anthropometric data recorded by field interviewers. The adjusted odds of obesity and central obesity in Add Health vs. NHANES were estimated with logistic regression.

Results: Short-term reliabilities of in-home measures of height, weight, waist and arm circumference - as well as derived body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) - were excellent. Prevalence of obesity (37% vs. 29%) and central obesity (47% vs. 38%) was higher in Add Health than in NHANES, while socio-demographic patterns of obesity and central obesity were comparable in the two studies.

Conclusions: Properly trained non-medical field interviewers can collect reliable anthropometric data in a nationwide, home visit study. This national cohort of young adults in the United States faces a high risk of early-onset chronic disease and premature mortality.

Author's Affiliation

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