Predictors of decline in self-reported health: addressing non-ignorable dropout in longitudinal studies of aging

Research paper by Minna Genbäck, Nawi Ng, Elena Stanghellini, Xavier de Luna

Indexed on: 03 Dec '17Published on: 02 Dec '17Published in: European Journal of Ageing


Predictors of decline in health in older populations have been investigated in multiple studies before. Most longitudinal studies of aging, however, assume that dropout at follow-up is ignorable (missing at random) given a set of observed characteristics at baseline. The objective of this study was to address non-ignorable dropout in investigating predictors of declining self-reported health (SRH) in older populations (50 years or older) in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Italy. We used the SHARE panel survey, and since only 2895 out of the original 5657 participants in the survey 2004 were followed up in 2013, we studied whether the results were sensitive to the expectation that those dropping out have a higher proportion of decliners in SRH. We found that older age and a greater number of chronic diseases were positively associated with a decline in self-reported health in the three countries studies here. Maximum grip strength was associated with decline in self-reported health in Sweden and Italy, and self-reported limitations in normal activities due to health problems were associated with decline in self-reported health in Sweden. These results were not sensitive to non-ignorable dropout. On the other hand, although obesity was associated with decline in a complete case analysis, this result was not confirmed when performing a sensitivity analysis to non-ignorable dropout. The findings, thereby, contribute to the literature in understanding the robustness of longitudinal study results to non-ignorable dropout while considering three different population samples in Europe.