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Self-reported data on health care use is a key input in a range of studies. However, the length of recall period in self-reported health care questions varies between surveys, and this variation may affect the results of the studies. This study uses a large survey experiment to examine the role of the length of recall periods for the quality of self-reported hospitalization data by comparing registered with self-reported hospitalizations of respondents exposed to recall periods of one, three, six, or twelve months. Our findings have conflicting implications for survey design, as the preferred length of recall period depends on the objective of the analysis. For an aggregated measure of hospitalization, longer recall periods are preferred. For analysis oriented more to the micro-level, shorter recall periods may be considered since the association between individual characteristics (e.g., education) and recall error increases with the length of the recall period.

Original publication





J Health Econ

Publication Date





34 - 46


Health survey, Hospitalization, Recall error, Recall periods, Survey methods, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Bias, Epidemiologic Research Design, Female, Health Care Surveys, Hospitalization, Humans, Male, Mental Recall, Middle Aged, Models, Statistical, Registries, Regression Analysis, Self Report, Time Factors, Young Adult