Why do older adults decline participation in research? Results from two deprescribing clinical trials

Trials. 2023 Jul 18;24(1):456. doi: 10.1186/s13063-023-07506-7.


Background: Heterogenous older adult populations are underrepresented in clinical trials, and their participation is necessary for interventions that directly target them. The purpose of this study was to evaluate reasons why hospitalized older adults declined participation in two deprescribing clinical trials.

Methods: We report enrollment data from two deprescribing trials, Shed-MEDS (non-Veterans) and VA DROP (Veterans). For both trials, inclusion criteria required participants to be hospitalized, age 50 or older, English-speaking, and taking five or more home medications. Eligible patients were approached for enrollment while hospitalized. When an eligible patient or surrogate declined participation, the reason(s) were recorded and subsequently analyzed inductively to develop themes, and a chi-square test was used for comparison (of themes between Veterans and non-Veterans).

Results: Across both trials, 1226 patients (545 non-Veterans and 681 Veterans) declined enrollment and provided reasons, which were condensed into three themes: (1) feeling overwhelmed by their current health status, (2) lack of interest or mistrust of research, and (3) hesitancy to participate in a deprescribing study. A greater proportion of Veterans expressed a lack of interest or mistrust in research (42% vs 26%, chi-square value = 36.72, p < .001), whereas a greater proportion of non-Veterans expressed feeling overwhelmed by their current health status (54% vs 35%, chi-square value = 42.8 p < 0.001). Across both trials, similar proportion of patients expressed hesitancy to participate in a deprescribing study, with no significant difference between Veterans and non-Veterans (23% and 21%).

Conclusions: Understanding the reasons older adults decline participation can inform future strategies to engage this multimorbid population.

Keywords: Deprescribing; Patient engagement; Polypharmacy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Deprescriptions*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polypharmacy