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Open Access Research article

Social desirability and self-reported health risk behaviors in web-based research: three longitudinal studies

Rik Crutzen1* and Anja S Göritz2

Author affiliations

1 CAPHRI, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Work, Industrial & Organizational Psychology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:720  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-720

Published: 23 November 2010

Abstract

Background

These studies sought to investigate the relation between social desirability and self-reported health risk behaviors (e.g., alcohol use, drug use, smoking) in web-based research.

Methods

Three longitudinal studies (Study 1: N = 5612, 51% women; Study 2: N = 619, 60%; Study 3: N = 846, 59%) among randomly selected members of two online panels (Dutch; German) using several social desirability measures (Marlowe-Crowne Scale; Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding; The Social Desirability Scale-17) were conducted.

Results

Social desirability was not associated with self-reported current behavior or behavior frequency. Socio-demographics (age; sex; education) did not moderate the effect of social desirability on self-reported measures regarding health risk behaviors.

Conclusions

The studies at hand provided no convincing evidence to throw doubt on the usefulness of the Internet as a medium to collect self-reports on health risk behaviors.