Does survey non-response bias the association between occupational social class and health?

Scand J Public Health. 2007;35(2):212-5. doi: 10.1080/14034940600996563.


Aims: A non-response rate of 20-40%is typical in questionnaire studies. The authors evaluate non-response bias and its impact on analyses of social class inequalities in health.

Methods: Set in the context of a health survey carried out among the employees of the City of Helsinki (non-response 33%) in 2000-02. Survey response and non-response records were linked with a personnel register to provide information on occupational social class and long sickness absence spells as an indicator of health status.

Results: Women and employees in higher occupational social classes were more likely to respond. Non-respondents had about 20-30% higher sickness absence rates. Relative social class differences in sickness absence in the total population were similar to those among either respondents or non-respondents.

Conclusions: In working populations survey non-response does not seriously bias analyses of social class inequalities in sickness absence and possibly health inequalities more generally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bias*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Class*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires