The self-assessment of perceived immune status is important, as this subjective observation leads individuals to decide whether or not to seek medical help or adapt their lifestyle. In addition, it can be used in clinical settings and research. The aim of this series of studies was to develop and validate a short questionnaire to assess perceived immune functioning. Five surveys were conducted among Dutch and International young healthy adults (18–30 years old), and two others among older age groups with various health complaints. For the first study, an existing immune functioning scale was modified and elaborated resulting in 23 immune-health-related items, of which the occurrence was rated on a 5-point Likert scale. A student sample was surveyed, and the results were used to shorten the 23-item listing into a 7-item scale with a predictive validity of 85%. Items include “sudden high fever”, “diarrhea”, “headache”, “skin problems (e.g., acne and eczema)”, “muscle and joint pain”, “common cold” and “coughing”. The scale is named Immune Status Questionnaire (ISQ), and it aims to assess perceived immune status over the preceding year. The second study revealed that the ISQ score correlated significantly with a 1-item perceived immune functioning (r = 0.383, p
< 0.0001). In the third study, the final Likert scale descriptors were determined (“never”, “sometimes”, “regularly”, “often” and “(almost) always)”. The fourth study showed that the test–retest reliability of the ISQ is acceptable (r = 0.80). The fifth study demonstrated the association of ISQ scores with various neuropsychological and health correlates in an international sample, including perceived health and immune fitness, as well as levels of stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Study 6 demonstrated significant associations between ISQ scores and experiencing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms in a sample of insomnia patients. Study 7 compared the effect of a dietary intervention in participants reporting “poor health” versus “normal health”. It is shown that ISQ scores can differentiate between those with poor and normal health, and that an effective intervention is associated with a significant improvement in ISQ scores. Data from Study 7 were further used to determine an ISQ cut-off value for reduced immune functioning, and a direct comparison with 1-item perceived immune functioning scores enabled constructing the final scoring format of the ISQ. In conclusion, the ISQ has appropriate face, content, and construct validity and is a reliable, stable and valid method to assess the past 12 month’s perceived immune status.
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