Longitudinal cohort studies can provide important evidence about preventable causes of disease, but the success relies heavily on the commitment of their participants, both at recruitment and during follow up. Initial participation rates have decreased in recent decades as have willingness to participate in subsequent follow ups. It is important to examine how such selection affects the validity of the results. In this article, we describe the conceptual framework for selection bias due to nonparticipation and loss to follow up in cohort studies, using both a traditional epidemiological approach and directed acyclic graphs. Methods to quantify selection bias are introduced together with analytical strategies to adjust for the bias including controlling for covariates associated with selection, inverse probability weighting and bias analysis. We use several studies conducted in the Danish National Birth Cohort as examples of how to quantify selection bias and also understand the underlying selection mechanisms. Although women who chose to participate in this cohort were typically of higher social status, healthier and with less disease than all those eligible for study, differential selection was modest and the influence of selection bias on several selected exposure–outcome associations was limited. These findings are reassuring and support enrolling a subset of motivated participants who would engage in long‐term follow up rather than prioritize representativeness. Some of the presented methods are applicable even with limited data on nonparticipants and those lost to follow up, and can also be applied to other study designs such as case–control studies and surveys.
Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ;
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