Handling missing data in survey research

Stat Methods Med Res. 1996 Sep;5(3):215-38. doi: 10.1177/096228029600500302.


Missing data occur in survey research because an element in the target population is not included on the survey's sampling frame (noncoverage), because a sampled element does not participate in the survey (total nonresponse) and because a responding sampled element fails to provide acceptable responses to one or more of the survey items (item nonresponse). A variety of methods have been developed to attempt to compensate for missing survey data in a general purpose way that enables the survey's data file to be analysed without regard for the missing data. Weighting adjustments are often used to compensate for noncoverage and total nonresponse. Imputation methods that assign values for missing responses are used to compensate for item nonresponses. This paper describes the various weighting and imputation methods that have been developed, and discusses their benefits and limitations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Models, Statistical
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Probability
  • Selection Bias*