A Descriptive Cross-Sectional Study: Practical and Feasible Design in Investigating Health Care–Seeking Behaviors of Undergraduates


Descriptive cross-sectional studies provide data for describing the status of phenomena or relationships among phenomena at a fixed point in time. This can be thought of as a “snapshot” of the frequency and characteristics of a condition in a population at a particular point in time. The participants in a cross-sectional study are recruited based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria set for the study. Once the participants have been recruited for the study, the researcher follows the study to assess the exposure and the outcomes. The researcher can also study the association between these variables. Cross-sectional designs are mostly used for population-based surveys and to assess the prevalence of diseases in clinic-based samples. They may also be useful for public health planning, monitoring, and evaluation. These studies can usually be conducted relatively faster and are inexpensive. However, since this is a one-time measurement of exposure and outcome, it is difficult to derive causal relationships from cross-sectional analysis. Thus, this case study provides guidance into the practicalities of how a descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted to assess the health care–seeking behaviors of the undergraduate students.

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