Background: Understanding reasons for non-participation in health studies can help guide recruitment strategies and inform researchers about potential sources of bias in their study sample. Whilst there is a paucity of literature regarding this issue, it remains highly plausible that men and women may have varied reasons for declining an invitation to participate in research. We aimed to investigate sex-differences in the reasons for non-participation at baseline of the Geelong Osteoporosis Study (GOS).
Methods: The GOS, a prospective cohort study, randomly recruited men and women aged 20 years and over from a region in south-eastern Australia using Commonwealth electoral rolls (2001-06 and 1993-97, respectively). Reasons for non-participation (n=1,200) were documented during the two recruitment periods. We used the Pearson's chi squared test to explore differences in the reasons for non-participation between men and women.
Results: Non-participation in the male cohort was greater than in the female cohort (32.9% vs. 22.9%; p<0.001). Overall, there were sex-differences in the reasons provided for non-participation (p<0.001); apparent differences related to time constraints (men 26.3% vs. women 10.4%), frailty/inability to cope with or understand the study (men 18.7% vs. women 30.6%), and reluctance over medical testing (men 1.1% vs women 9.9%). No sex-differences were observed for non-participation related to personal reason/disinterest, and language- or travel-related reasons.
Conclusions: Improving participation rates in epidemiological studies may require different recruitment strategies for men and women in order to address sex-specific concerns about participating in research.