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The MRC National Survey of Health and Development reaches age 70: maintaining participation at older ages in a birth cohort study

Kuh, D and Wong, A and Shah, I and Moore, A and Popham, M and Curran, P and Davis, D and Sharma, N and Richards, M and Stafford, M and Hardy, R and Cooper, R (2016) The MRC National Survey of Health and Development reaches age 70: maintaining participation at older ages in a birth cohort study. European Journal of Epidemiology, 31 (11). pp. 1135-1147. ISSN 0393-2990

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Abstract

A life course approach to ageing relies on maintaining participation rates in national birth cohorts and other long-term longitudinal studies. This reduces the risk of selective attrition biasing associations between lifetime risk factors and health outcomes in later life and ensures the studies remain as representative as possible of the original population. We report the participation patterns for a postal questionnaire and home visit at 68–69 years of study members in the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, the oldest and longest-running British birth cohort study. We investigated how participation varied by lifetime and recent contact, health status, previous clinical feedback and study engagement, taking account of prior socioeconomic and cognitive characteristics. Overall participation and home visit participation remained high (94 and 80%, respectively) and there were no gender differences. Participation was higher in those with higher levels of prior contact and lower in those with the poorest health status. Having previously received clinical feedback on actionable blood results was associated with reduced home visit participation but other forms of clinical feedback were not associated with subsequent participation. Activities that fostered study engagement were associated with increased home visit participation. These findings inform strategies to maintain participation in life course studies.

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