The average American adult reads below the eighth-grade level. To determine whether self-reported health-related quality-of-life questionnaires used for pelvic floor disorders are appropriate for American women, we measured reading levels of questionnaires for urinary incontinence (UI), pelvic organ prolapse (POP), and fecal incontinence (FI).
An online literature search identified questionnaires addressing UI, POP, and FI. Readability was assessed using Flesch-Kincaid reading level and ease formulas. Flesch-Kincaid grade level indicates the average grade one is expected to completely and lucidly comprehend the written text. Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score, from 0 to 100, indicates how easy the written text can be read.
Questionnaires were categorized by UI, POP, FI, and combined pelvic floor symptoms. The median Flesch-Kincaid reading level was 7.2, 10.1, 7.6, and 9.7, for UI, POP, FI, and combined pelvic floor symptoms, respectively. Reading levels varied greatly between questionnaires, with only 54% of questionnaires written below the eighth-grade level.
We identified significant variation in reading levels among the questionnaires and found the 2 most commonly used questionnaires per survey in 2008 at Society of Urodynamics and Female Pelvic Medicine and Urogenital Reconstruction were above the recommended eighth-grade reading level. As specialty societies focus on standardizing questionnaires for research, reading levels should be considered so they are generalizable to larger populations of women with pelvic floor disorders.