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Online Health Surveys: how accurate are they?


Posted by Cags R under General on 1 October 2012 at 11:00 PM

In previous articles, we have discussed the inaccuracies which generalised testing (such as the BMI scale) can have. The problem is that there is a growing dependancy on online evaluations rather than face to face medical health evaluations.

These tests are a good way to heighten your own awareness of your lifestyle habits - are you conscious of how active you are, how much you drink or what you are eating?

But should they be used for anything more than that?

The test from the Online Health Assessment Challenge is from Bupa healthcare. In the disclaimer on the test, Bupa outline the purpose of the test:

The report provides general information about what you can do to improve your health and wellbeing, based solely on the responses you have provided in the Online Health Assessment.

Here, it is made clear that your answers are the key to the test - it depends on your honesty about your lifestyle.


When accumulating the essential information for the assessment you are asked some basic questions which are modified for each person depending on previous answers:

How healthy do you think you are compared to other people your age?

Do you regularly feel tired?

How satisfied are you with your life?

On average how often a week do you drink alcohol?

Some questions are wholly subjective - a lot of dependance on having an accurate gauge of what you think is 'average' or 'normal'. 

Health Age - just a number?

The test concludes with giving you results with the lead figure of your 'Health Age'. 
Nocturnal R commented:

My health age is 6 years younger. But then I guess most of us in TS would be. The fact that we joined TS means we are actively working on our fitness and health.

What is not clear is what on earth this number relates to; if a 23 year old has a health age of 15 - is that a healthy 15 year old or an average one?! In which case surely it's preferable to just be classed as being a healthy 23 year old - you may as well take the fitness test on the Wii for a health assessment if you put stock in these 'Health Ages'.


Now here is where these online tests really do seem to over step the mark. It is all very well to collate information and show you statistically what sort of lifestyle you lead, in fact the bar chart was actually pretty interesting:

But it then proceeds to give you advice on lifestyle changes you should be making. Whilst a one-to-one consultation with a doctor would often conclude with recommendations of lifestyle changes, the test generates suggestions of changes you could make, though obviously they can't be 100% dependable:

I don't drink alcohol, but one of the recommendations shows that if you drink it, drink it in moderation, and this lowers my death bar! Also, being single raises that risk! Weird! So now I must go and find a partner and start drinking alcohol! Sean K 

These tests are designed to get a rough gauge of your health but they don't hold all the answers - if you really want to get an accurate idea of your health you should have a full check up with a medical professional - not just a step on the scales and blood pressure check!

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    This is what I try to tell my clients, this is kind of like parlor tricks. Seeing a doctor if you have a concern is the best way to get good information. Other than, these are fun to do.

    Jane H and Rick P encouraged this.


    I agree Dana, if you have any concerns about your health, of course you must see an expert.

    Dana J and Rick P encouraged this.


    Depending on which survey I take my results go from 'overweight' to 'athlete'. The online stuff is entertaining but can be misleading. I think you generally know if you need to lose weight to get into a healthy range.

    Cags R and Rick P encouraged this.


    I think that most people who take surveys like this already are interested in health and have some baseline knowledge about health and fitness. The fact we are here critiquing them shows that we can take the responses in context and not as 'gospel'. Apparently I should go out and reproduce pretty quick to reduce my risk of breast cancer. I'm NOT going to follow that one up I'm afraid ( a little late at 38) but I think I'll have that extra portion of fish a week though.

    Jane H and Rick P encouraged this.


    Well, as suggestions are ok, but really I don't think this could help you to stay healthy. I also got confused with the option to drink and moderation because of the lower risk of death. I took the healthy age as your body works better, less wasted and your organs less used.

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