The increasing use of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaires in multinational studies has resulted in the translation of many existing measures. Guidelines for translation have been published, and there has been some discussion of how to achieve and assess equivalence between source and target questionnaires. Our reading in this area had led us, however, to the conclusion that different types of equivalence were not clearly defined, and that a theoretical framework for equivalence was lacking. To confirm this we reviewed definitions of equivalence in the HRQOL literature on the use of generic questionnaires in multicultural settings. The literature review revealed: definitions of 19 different types of equivalence; vague or conflicting definitions, particularly in the case of conceptual equivalence; and the use of many redundant terms. We discuss these findings in the light of a framework adapted from cross-cultural psychology for describing three different orientations to cross-cultural research: absolutism, universalism and relativism. We suggest that the HRQOL field has generally adopted an absolutist approach and that this may account for some of the confusion in this area. We conclude by suggesting that there is an urgent need for a standardized terminology within the HRQOL field, by offering a standard definition of conceptual equivalence, and by suggesting that the adoption of a universalist orientation would require substantial changes to guidelines and more empirical work on the conceptualization of HRQOL in different cultures.
Quality of Life Research 6 (3) 237-247 [DOI: 10.1023/A:1026410721664]