Accuracy of self-reported family history is strongly influenced by the accuracy of self-reported personal health status of relatives
Objective: We investigated the accuracy of self-reported family history for diabetes, hypertension, and overweight against two reference standards: family history based on physician-assessed health status of relatives and on self-reported personal health status of relatives. Study Design and Setting: Subjects were participants from the Erasmus Rucphen Family study, an extended family study among descendants of 20 couples who lived between 1850 and 1900 in a southwest region of the Netherlands and their relatives (n = 1,713). Sensitivity and specificity of self-reported family history were calculated. Results: Sensitivity of self-reported family history was 89.2% for diabetes, 92.2% for hypertension, and 78.4% for overweight when family history based on relatives' self-reported personal health status was used as reference and 70.8% for diabetes, 67.4% for hypertension, and 77.3% for overweight when physician-assessed health status of relatives was used. Sensitivity and specificity of self-reported personal health status were 76.8% and 98.8% for diabetes, 38.9% and 98.0% for hypertension, and 80.9% and 75.7% for overweight, respectively. Conclusion: The accuracy of self-reported family history of diabetes and hypertension is strongly influenced by the accuracy of self-reported personal health status of relatives. Raising awareness of personal health status is crucial to ensure the utility of family history for the assessment of risk and disease prevention.