The Problem of Response Bias

  • Michael H. Criqui
Conference paper
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 84)


Historically, there has been considerable concern about the problem of biased results in epidemiologic studies of volunteers because the sample is limited to persons willing to be evaluated (Friedman, 1974; Lilienfeld, 1976; MacMahon and Pugh, 1970; Mausner and Bahn, 1974). The realization that non-respondents might be quite different from respondents in certain critical characteristics has generated a free-floating uncertainty, since, by definition data is usually not available on non-respondents. Occasionally, however, investigators have attempted to gather data on identified non-respondents, usually by indirect means, such as data already recorded for other reasons, or by obtaining available subsequent information, such as cause of death on death certificates (Cobb, King, Chew, 1957; Doll and Hill, 1964; Gordon et al., 1959; Hammond, 1969; Heilbrun, Nomura, Stemmermann, 1982; Horowitz and Wilbeck, 1971; Wilhelmsen et al., 1976). Between 1972 and 1974, in a population study of over 5,000 older Rancho Bernardo, California, U.S. residents for cardiovascular disease, we directly contacted by telephone about 77 percent of the 1,103 non-respondents to our survey, and asked them questions concerning both risk factors for and the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases. We did this simply to reassure ourselves that the non-respondents were not so markedly different as to invalidate the results of our subsequent analyses of the data.


Risk Ratio Heart Attack Response Bias Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Risk Factor Category 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Austin, M. A., Criqui, M. II., Barrett-Connor, E., and Holdbrook, M. J. The effect of response bias on the odds ratios. American Journal of Epidemiology 114 (1981) 137–143.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Cobb, S., King, S., and Chew, E. Difference between respondents and non-respondents in a morbidity survey involving clinical examination. Journal of Chronic Diseases 6 (1957) 95–108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Criqui, M. H. Response bias and risk ratios in epidemiologic studies. American Journal of Epidemiology 109 (1979) 394–399.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Criqui, M. H., Austin, M., and Barrett-Connor, E. The effect of non-response on risk ratios in a cardiovascular disease study. Journal of Chronic Diseases 32 (1979) 633–638.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Criqui, M. H., Barrett-Connor, E., and Austin, M. Differences between respondents and non-respondents in a population-based cardiovascular disease study. American Journal of Epidemiology 108 (1978) 367–372.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Doll, R. and Hill, A. B. Mortality in relation to smoking: Ten years’ observations of British doctors. British Medical Journal 1 (1964) 1399–1410, 1460–1467.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Friedman, G. D. Primer of Epidemiology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974, pp. 108–109Google Scholar
  8. Gordon, T., Moore, F. E., Shurtleff, D., and Dawber, T. R. Some methodological problems in the long-term study of cardiovascular disease: Observations on the Framingham Study. Journal of Chronic Diseases 10 (1959) 186–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Greenland, S. and Criqui, M. H. Are case-control studies more vulnerable to response bias? American Journal of Epidemiology 114 (1981) 175–177.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Hammond, E. C. Life expectancy of American men in relation to their smoking habits. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 43 (1969) 951–962.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Heilbrun, L. K., Nomura, A., and Stemmermann, G. N. The effects of nonresponse in a prospective study of cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology 116 (1982) 353–363.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Horowitz, O. and Wilbeck, F. Effect of tuberculous infection on mortality risk. American Review of Respiratory Disease 104 (1971) 643–655.Google Scholar
  13. Kannel, W. B., Feinleib, M., McNamara, P. M., Garrison, R. J., and Castelli, W. P. An investigation of coronary heart disease in families. The Framingham Offspring Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 110 (1979) 281–290.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Lilienfeld, A. M. Foundations of Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976, pp. 209–210.Google Scholar
  15. MacMahon, B. and Pugh, T. F. Epidemiology: Principles and Methods. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970, pp. 218–220.Google Scholar
  16. Mausner, J. S. and Bahn, A. K. Epidemiology, an Introductory Text. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1974, pp. 140–142.Google Scholar
  17. Remington, R. D., Taylor, H. L., and Buskirk, E. R. A method for assessing volunteer bias and its application to a cardiovascular disease prevention programme involving physical activity. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 32 (1978) 250–255.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wilhelmsen, L., Ljungberg, S., Wedel, H., and Werkö, L. A comparison between participants and non-participants in a primary prevention trial. Journal of Chronic Diseases 29 (1976) 331–339.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael H. Criqui

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations