Methodological issues in the observational studies conducted in older population: A narrative review

Andrea Poscia, Agnese Collamati, Sonja Milovanovic, Davide Liborio Vetrano, Giuseppe Liotta, Tommasangelo Petitti, Maria Luisa Di Pietro, Nicola Magnavita, Walter Ricciardi, Antonio Cherubini, Graziano Onder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Introduction: Well-conducted observational studies may represent valuable tools for getting insight to disease etiology, detecting the effect of age-related changes, and providing an important perspective on health risk factors and disabilities in an aging population. Nevertheless, this kind of research poses several challenges for researchers. The main aim of this narrative review was to address the potential methodological issues in performing the observational studies in the elderly, the factors that influence their participation, and the possible solutions for overcoming the barriers to research in this population. Methods: Comprehensive search for the papers published in the period from January 1st 1980 until 31st July 2016 in English or Italian was conducted through MEDLINE, Scopus and Web of Science electronic databases. Findings from the included papers were finally summarized. Results: In cohort studies, the following barriers were addressed: sample size calculation, ascertainment of the target population, frequency of data collection, exposure determination, multi factorial loss to follow-up (drop-outs), cognitive impairment, definition of confounders, and ethical aspects. Case-control studies were reported to be prone to the issues like ascertainment of cases and controls, willingness to participate, data accuracy, recall bias, issues related to patients’ multi morbidity, and cognitive impairment. Conclusions: Important factors to consider in research in elderly people include: precise definition of the study population, well conducted recruitment process, engagement with family and home care staff, cognitive impairment assessment and the consequent relevant ethical and legal issues, relief of participant burden in order to minimize withdrawal, and engagement with the media.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12627
JournalEpidemiology Biostatistics and Public Health
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Case control
  • Cohort
  • Elderly
  • Observational studies
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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    Poscia, A., Collamati, A., Milovanovic, S., Vetrano, D. L., Liotta, G., Petitti, T., Di Pietro, M. L., Magnavita, N., Ricciardi, W., Cherubini, A., & Onder, G. (2017). Methodological issues in the observational studies conducted in older population: A narrative review. Epidemiology Biostatistics and Public Health, 14(2), [e12627]. https://doi.org/10.2427/12627