Reliability and validity of the UK Biobank cognitive tests
Chloe Fawns-Ritchie, Ian J. Deary
Abstract UK Biobank is a health resource with data from over 500,000 adults. The cognitive assessment in UK Biobank is brief and bespoke, and is administered without supervision on a touchscreen computer. Psychometric information on the UK Biobank cognitive tests are limited. Despite the non-standard nature of these tests and the limited psychometric information, the UK Biobank cognitive data have been used in numerous scientific publications. The present study examined the validity and short-term test-retest reliability of the UK Biobank cognitive tests. A sample of 160 participants (mean age = 62.59, SD = 10.24) was recruited who completed the UK Biobank cognitive assessment and a range of well-validated cognitive tests (‘reference tests’). Fifty-two participants returned 4 weeks later to repeat the UK Biobank tests. Correlations were calculated between UK Biobank tests and reference tests. Two measures of general cognitive ability were created by entering scores on the UK Biobank cognitive tests, and scores on the reference tests, respectively, into separate principal component analyses and saving scores on the first principal component. Four-week test-retest correlations were calculated for UK Biobank tests. UK Biobank cognitive tests showed a range of correlations with their respective reference tests, i.e. those tests that are thought to assess the same underlying cognitive ability (mean Pearson r = 0.53, range = 0.22 to 0.83, p≤.005). The measure of general cognitive ability based on the UK Biobank cognitive tests correlated at r = 0.83 (p < .001) with a measure of general cognitive ability created using the reference tests. Four-week test-retest reliability of the UK Biobank tests were moderate-to-high (mean Pearson r = 0.55, range = 0.40 to 0.89, p≤.003). Despite the brief, non-standard nature of the UK Biobank cognitive tests, some tests showed substantial concurrent validity and test-retest reliability. These psychometric results provide currently-lacking information on the validity of the UK Biobank cognitive tests.