Retention strategies in longitudinal cohort studies: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Teague, Samantha, Youssef, George J., Macdonald, Jacqui A., Sciberras, Emma, Shatte, Adrian, Fuller-tyszkiewicz, Matthew, Greenwood, Christopher, Mcintosh, Jennifer, Olsson, Craig A., Hutchinson, Delyse, and , SEED Lifecourse Sciences Theme (2018) Retention strategies in longitudinal cohort studies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18. 151.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (873kB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


Background: Participant retention strategies that minimise attrition in longitudinal cohort studies have evolved considerably in recent years. This study aimed to assess, via systematic review and meta-analysis, the effectiveness of both traditional strategies and contemporary innovations for retention adopted by longitudinal cohort studies in the past decade.

Methods: Health research databases were searched for retention strategies used within longitudinal cohort studies published in the 10-years prior, with 143 eligible longitudinal cohort studies identified (141 articles; sample size range: 30 to 61,895). Details on retention strategies and rates, research designs, and participant demographics were extracted. Meta-analyses of retained proportions were performed to examine the association between cohort retention rate and individual and thematically grouped retention strategies.

Results: Results identified 95 retention strategies, broadly classed as either: barrier-reduction, community-building, follow-up/reminder, or tracing strategies. Forty-four of these strategies had not been identified in previous reviews. Meta-regressions indicated that studies using barrier-reduction strategies retained 10% more of their sample (95%CI [0.13 to 1.08]; p = .01); however, studies using follow-up/reminder strategies lost an additional 10% of their sample (95%CI [− 1.19 to − 0.21]; p = .02). The overall number of strategies employed was not associated with retention.

Conclusions: Employing a larger number of retention strategies may not be associated with improved retention in longitudinal cohort studies, contrary to earlier narrative reviews. Results suggest that strategies that aim to reduce participant burden (e.g., flexibility in data collection methods) might be most effective in maximising cohort retention.

Item ID: 73650
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2288
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Additional Information:

Consortia: the SEED Lifecourse Sciences Theme members are listed at the end of the article.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Principal Research Fellowship
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2022 00:39
FoR Codes: 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology > 520105 Psychological methodology, design and analysis @ 100%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2099 Other health > 209999 Other health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 659
Last 12 Months: 107
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page