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1.  Main characteristics and participation rate of European adolescents included in the HELENA study 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):14.
Background
Participation rate and response rate are key issues in a cross sectional large-scale epidemiological study. The objective of this paper is to describe the study population and to evaluate participation and response rate as well as the key nutritional status variables in male and female adolescents involved in the HELENA study.
Methods
A multi-stage random cluster sampling with a target sample of 3000 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years, stratified for geographical location and age, was carried out. Information for participants and non-participants (NP) was compared, and participation and response rates to specific questionnaires were discussed.
Results
3,865 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years (1,845 females) participated in the HELENA study, of whom 1,076 (568 females) participated in the blood sampling. 3,528 (1,845 females) adolescents were finally kept for statistical analysis. Participation rates for the schools and classes differed importantly between countries. The participation rate of pupils within the participating classes also differed importantly between countries. Sex ratio, mean age and BMI were similar between NP and participating adolescents within each centre, and in the overall sample. For all the questionnaires included in the database, the response rate of questionnaires was high (more than 80% of questions were completed).
Conclusion
From this study it could be concluded that participation rate differed importantly between countries, though no bias could be identified when comparing the key study variables between participants and non-participants. Response rate for questionnaires was very high. Future studies investigating lifestyle and health in adolescents can optimize their methods when considering the opportunities and barriers observed in the HELENA study.
doi:10.1186/0778-7367-70-14
PMCID: PMC3490738  PMID: 22958310
2.  Reliability and validity of the Adolescent Stress Questionnaire in a sample of European adolescents - the HELENA study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:717.
Background
Since stress is hypothesized to play a role in the etiology of obesity during adolescence, research on associations between adolescent stress and obesity-related parameters and behaviours is essential. Due to lack of a well-established recent stress checklist for use in European adolescents, the study investigated the reliability and validity of the Adolescent Stress Questionnaire (ASQ) for assessing perceived stress in European adolescents.
Methods
The ASQ was translated into the languages of the participating cities (Ghent, Stockholm, Vienna, Zaragoza, Pecs and Athens) and was implemented within the HELENA cross-sectional study. A total of 1140 European adolescents provided a valid ASQ, comprising 10 component scales, used for internal reliability (Cronbach α) and construct validity (confirmatory factor analysis or CFA). Contributions of socio-demographic (gender, age, pubertal stage, socio-economic status) characteristics to the ASQ score variances were investigated. Two-hundred adolescents also provided valid saliva samples for cortisol analysis to compare with the ASQ scores (criterion validity). Test-retest reliability was investigated using two ASQ assessments from 37 adolescents.
Results
Cronbach α-values of the ASQ scales (0.57 to 0.88) demonstrated a moderate internal reliability of the ASQ, and intraclass correlation coefficients (0.45 to 0.84) established an insufficient test-retest reliability of the ASQ. The adolescents' gender (girls had higher stress scores than boys) and pubertal stage (those in a post-pubertal development had higher stress scores than others) significantly contributed to the variance in ASQ scores, while their age and socio-economic status did not. CFA results showed that the original scale construct fitted moderately with the data in our European adolescent population. Only in boys, four out of 10 ASQ scale scores were a significant positive predictor for baseline wake-up salivary cortisol, suggesting a rather poor criterion validity of the ASQ, especially in girls.
Conclusions
In our European adolescent sample, the ASQ had an acceptable internal reliability and construct validity and the adolescents' gender and pubertal stage systematically contributed to the ASQ variance, but its test-retest reliability and criterion validity were rather poor. Overall, the utility of the ASQ for assessing perceived stress in adolescents across Europe is uncertain and some aspects require further examination.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-717
PMCID: PMC3188495  PMID: 21943341

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