Background: This paper discusses whether baseline demographic, socio-economic, health variables, length of follow-up and method of contacting the participants predict non-response to the invitation for a second assessment of lifestyle factors and body weight in the European multi-center EPIC-PANACEA study.
Methods: Over 500.000 participants from several centers in ten European countries recruited between 1992 and 2000 were contacted 2-11 years later to update data on lifestyle and body weight. Length of follow-up as well as the method of approaching differed between the collaborating study centers. Non-responders were compared with responders using multivariate logistic regression analyses.
Results: Overall response for the second assessment was high (81.6%). Compared to postal surveys, centers where the participants completed the questionnaire by phone attained a higher response. Response was also high in centers with a short follow-up period. Non-response was higher in participants who were male (odds ratio 1.09 (confidence interval 1.07; 1.11), aged under 40 years (1.96 (1.90; 2.02), living alone (1.40 (1.37; 1.43), less educated (1.35 (1.12; 1.19), of poorer health (1.33 (1.27; 1.39), reporting an unhealthy lifestyle and who had either a low (<18.5 kg/m2, 1.16 (1.09; 1.23)) or a high BMI (>25, 1.08 (1.06; 1.10); especially ≥30 kg/m2, 1.26 (1.23; 1.29)).
Conclusions: Cohort studies may enhance cohort maintenance by paying particular attention to the subgroups that are most unlikely to respond and by an active recruitment strategy using telephone interviews.