Editor's Correspondence
Jan 28, 2013

Social Desirability Bias in Self-rated Presenteeism Among Resident Physicians

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Emergency Medicine, Mater Adult and Children's Hospitals, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(2):165-166. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.1025

The survey of resident physicians by Jena et al1 optimistically compliments the professionalism and dedication of physicians who come to work despite being ill. Because attendance at work despite being ill is widely perceived to be altruistic, surveyed physicians are likely to overestimate self-rated presenteeism. This is more likely when researchers conduct face-to-face interviews at a professional meeting compared with anonymous surveys. Although social desirability bias is well-known to occur in interviewer-administered surveys in mental health, illicit substance use, and sexual and risk-taking behavior research,2 there is no publication regarding the potential role of social desirability bias in respondent self-report of altruistic or sacrificial behavior among physicians and health care workers. Because survey respondents are potentially able to be identified by their attendance at the 2010 Illinois chapter meeting of the American College of Physicians, truthful reports of the amount of sick leave taken and reasons for absenteeism/presenteeism could also be influenced by a perceived threat of sanction by employers and the specialist college.

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