Community members often evaluate health conditions more negatively than do the patients who have them. The authors investigated whether experience with a health condition reduces this discrepancy by surveying colostomy patients by mail (n = 195), some of whom (n = 100) had their colostomies reversed and normal bowel function restored. The authors also surveyed a community sample recruited via the Internet (n = 567). They then compared all 3 groups' utility value for life with a colostomy by using the time trade-off utility measure and by examining ratings of current quality of life. Despite having direct experience with the health condition, former colostomy patients provided much lower utility valuations than did current patients. In fact, their valuations were similar to those given by a community sample. Rather than accurately remembering their actual experiences with colostomies, the former patients may have applied a theory of how colostomies had influenced their lives; this is consistent with other research on theory driven recall bias.
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