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Modern health worries: Deriving two measurement invariant short scales for cross-cultural research with Ant Colony Optimization
Worries about possible harmful effects of new technologies (modern health worries) have intensely been investigated in the last decade. However, the comparability of translated self-report measures across countries is often problematic. This study aimed to overcome this problem by developing psychometrically sound brief versions of the widely used 25-item Modern Health Worries Scale (MHWS) suitable for multi-country use. Based on data of overall 5,176 individuals from four European countries (England, Germany, Hungary, Sweden), Ant Colony Optimization was used to identify the indicators that optimize model fit and measurement invariance across countries. Two scales were developed. A short (12-item) version of the MHWS that represents the four-factor structure of the original version and an ultra-short (4-item) scale that only measures the general construct. Both scales show that overall levels of health worries were highest in England and Hungary, but that the main reason for concern (e.g. electromagnetic radiation or food related fears) differs considerably between these countries. This study also shows that even if measurement invariance of translated self-report instruments across countries is problematic, it can be optimized by using adequate item selection procedures. Differences of modern health worries across countries and recommendations for cross-cultural research are discussed.