Simple descriptive missing data indicators in longitudinal studies with attrition, intermittent missing data and a high number of follow-ups

Morten Wærsted, Taran Svenssen Børnick, Jos W. R. Twisk, Kaj Bo Veiersted

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Missing data in longitudinal studies may constitute a source of bias. We suggest three simple missing data indicators for the initial phase of getting an overview of the missingness pattern in a dataset with a high number of follow-ups. Possible use of the indicators is exemplified in two datasets allowing wave nonresponse; a Norwegian dataset of 420 subjects examined at 21 occasions during 6.5 years and a Dutch dataset of 350 subjects with ten repeated measurements over a period of 35 years. Results: The indicators Last response (the timing of last response), Retention (the number of responded follow-ups), and Dispersion (the evenness of the distribution of responses) are introduced. The proposed indicators reveal different aspects of the missing data pattern, and may give the researcher a better insight into the pattern of missingness in a study with several follow-ups, as a starting point for analyzing possible bias. Although the indicators are positively correlated to each other, potential predictors of missingness can have a different relationship with different indicators leading to a better understanding of the missing data mechanism in longitudinal studies. These indictors may be useful descriptive tools when starting to look into a longitudinal dataset with many follow-ups.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this