Dropouts in cohort studies can introduce selection bias. In this paper, we aimed (i) to assess predictors of retention in a cohort study (the SUN Project) where participants are followed-up through biennial mailed questionnaires, and (ii) to evaluate whether differential follow-up introduced selection bias in rate ratio (RR) estimates. The SUN Study recruited 9907 participants from December 1999 to January 2002. Among them, 8647 (87%) participants answered the 2-year follow-up questionnaire. The presence of missing information in key variables at baseline, being younger, smoker, a marital status different of married, being obese/overweight and a history of motor vehicle injury were associated with being lost to follow-up, while a self-reported history of cardiovascular disease predicted a higher retention proportion. To assess whether differential follow-up affected RR estimates, we studied the association between body mass index and the risk of hypertension, using inverse probability weighting (IPW) to adjust for␣confounding and selection bias. Obese individuals had a higher crude rate of hypertension compared with␣normoweight participants (RR = 6.4, 95% confidence interval (CI): 3.9–10.5). Adjustment for confounding using IPW attenuated the risk of hypertension associated to obesity (RR = 2.4, 95% CI: 1.1–5.3). Additional adjustment for selection bias did not modify the estimations. In conclusion, we show that the follow-up through mailed questionnaires of a geographically disperse cohort in Spain is possible. Furthermore, we show that despite existing differences between retained or lost to follow-up participants this may not necessarily have an important impact on the RR estimates of hypertension associated to obesity.
Attrition Body mass index Cohort studies Hypertension Inverse probability weighting Selection bias