An investigation of whether factors associated with short-term attrition change or persist over ten years: data from the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS)
1 MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 2SR, UK
2 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge Institute of Public Health, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 2SR, UK
3 MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Fulbourn Road, Cambridge, CB1 9NL, UK
BMC Public Health 2006, 6:185 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-185Published: 18 July 2006
Factors associated with the loss of participants in long-term longitudinal studies of ageing, due to refusal or moves, have been discussed less than those with short term follow-up.
In a population-based study of cognition and ageing (the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS)), factors associated with dropout due to refusal and moving in the first follow-up period (over two years) are compared with factors associated with dropout over ten years. Participants at 10-year follow-up are compared with their age-standardised baseline contemporaries.
Some consistent trends are found over the longer term. Refusers tended to have poorer cognition, less years of education, not have a family history of dementia and be women. Characteristics of people who moved differed between waves, but the oldest and people in worse health moved more. When surviving and responding individuals at ten years are compared with those of the same age at baseline many differences are found. Individuals of lower social class, education, cognitive ability, in residential care, with sight/hearing problems and poor/fair self-reported health are less likely to be seen after 10 years of follow-up. Individuals report more health problems when they participate in multiple interviews.
The characteristics of refusers in the longer term are similar to those refusing to participate over the shorter term. Long-term follow-up studies will under represent the disadvantaged and disabled but represent full health status of participating individuals better. There are advantages and disadvantages to both short-term and long-term follow-up.