To investigate to what degree alcohol use and mental distress are associated with non-response in a population-based health study.
From 1995 to 1997, 91,488 persons were invited to take part in a health study at Nord-Trøndelag, Norway, and the response rate was 69.2%. Demographics were available for everyone. Survey answers from a previous survey were available for most of the participants and a majority of non-participants. In addition, the survey responses from spouses and children of the invitees were used to predict participation in the aforementioned study. Crude and adjusted ORs for a number of predictors, among these alcohol consumption and mental distress, are reported.
Both heavy drinkers (OR = 1.27) and abstainers (OR = 1.64) had a higher probability of dropping out in comparison to people who usually do not drink. High levels of mental distress (OR = 1.84) also predicted attrition.
Alcohol use and mental distress are moderately associated with non-response, though probably not a major cause, as controlling for other variables weakened the associations. Nevertheless, the moderate but clear underrepresentation at the crude level of people with high alcohol consumption, abstainers and people with poor mental health should be taken into consideration when interpreting results from health surveys.
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