Open Access Research article

Motives for (not) participating in a lifestyle intervention trial

Jeroen Lakerveld12*, Wilhelmina IJzelenberg2, Maurits W van Tulder2, Irene M Hellemans2, Jan A Rauwerda3, Albert C van Rossum4 and Jaap C Seidell2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice, EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Center, v.d. Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Vascular Surgery, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 Department of Cardiology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2008, 8:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-8-17

Published: 10 April 2008



Non-participants can have a considerable influence on the external validity of a study. Therefore, we assessed the socio-demographic, health-related, and lifestyle behavioral differences between participants and non-participants in a comprehensive CVD lifestyle intervention trial, and explored the motives and barriers underlying the decision to participate or not.


We collected data on participants (n = 50) and non-participants (n = 50) who were eligible for inclusion in a comprehensive CVD lifestyle interventional trial. Questionnaires and a hospital patient records database were used to assess socio-demographic, health-related and lifestyle behavioral variables. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression was used to describe the relationship between explanatory variables and study participation. Furthermore, motives and barriers that underlie study participation were investigated by means of questionnaires.


Participants were younger, single, had a higher level of education and were employed. No statistically significant differences were found in health measures and behavioral variables. The motives for participation that were most frequently reported were: the perception of being unhealthy and willingness to change their lifestyle. The main barriers reported by non-participants were financial arguments and time investment.


The differences between participants and non-participants in a lifestyle intervention trial are in mainly demographic factors. The participants consent in order to alter their lifestyle, and/or because they want to improve their health. To minimize non-participation, it is recommended that access to a lifestyle intervention program should be easy and cause no financial restraints.

Trial registration