A psychometric analysis of the measurement level of the rating scale, time trade-off, and standard gamble

Karon F. Cook*, Carol M. Ashton, Margaret M. Byrne, Baruch Brody, Jane Geraci, R. Brian Giesler, Makoto Hanita, Julianne Souchek, Nelda P. Wray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


A fundamental assumption of utility-based analyses is that patient utilities for health states can be measured on an equal-interval scale. This assumption, however, has not been widely examined. The objective of this study was to assess whether the rating scale (RS), standard gamble (SG), and time trade-off (TTO) utility elicitation methods function as equal-interval level scales. We wrote descriptions of eight prostate-cancer-related health states. In interviews with patients who had newly diagnosed, advanced prostate cancer, utilities for the health states were elicited using the RS, SG, and TTO methods. At the time of the study, 77 initial and 73 follow-up interviews had been conducted with a consecutive sample of 77 participants. Using a Rasch model, the boundaries (Thurstone Thresholds) between four equal score sub-ranges of the raw utilities were mapped onto an equal-interval logit scale. The distance between adjacent thresholds in logit units was calculated to determine whether the raw utilities were equal-interval. None of the utility scales functioned as interval-level scales in our sample. Therefore, since interval-level estimates are assumed in utility-based analyses, doubt is raised regarding the validity of findings from previous analyses based on these scales. Our findings need to be replicated in other contexts, and the practical impact of non-interval measurement on utility-based analyses should be explored. If cost-effectiveness analyses are not found to be robust to violations of the assumption that utilities are interval, serious doubt will be cast upon findings from utility-based analyses and upon the wisdom of expending millions in research dollars on utility-based studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1285
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 18 2001


  • Cost utility analysis
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Health-state preferences
  • Preference weights
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality-adjusted life
  • Utility measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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