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Factors associated with sharing email information and mental health survey participation in large population cohorts

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Mark J. Adams, W David Hill, David Mark Howard, Hassan S. Dashti, Katrina Alice Southworth Davis, Archie Campbell, Toni-Kim Clarke, Ian J. Deary, Caroline Hayward, David J. Porteous, Matthew Hugo Hotopf, Andrew M. McIntosh

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Early online date1 Jul 2019
Accepted/In press17 Jun 2019
E-pub ahead of print1 Jul 2019
Published1 Jul 2019


King's Authors


Background People who opt to participate in scientific studies tend to be healthier, wealthier and more educated than the broader population. Although selection bias does not always pose a problem for analysing the relationships between exposures and diseases or other outcomes, it can lead to biased effect size estimates. Biased estimates may weaken the utility of genetic findings because the goal is often to make inferences in a new sample (such as in polygenic risk score analysis). Methods We used data from UK Biobank, Generation Scotland and Partners Biobank and conducted phenotypic and genome-wide association analyses on two phenotypes that reflected mental health data availability: (i) whether participants were contactable by e-mail for follow-up; and (ii) whether participants responded to follow-up surveys of mental health. Results In UK Biobank, we identified nine genetic loci associated (P <5 × 10–8) with e-mail contact and 25 loci associated with mental health survey completion. Both phenotypes were positively genetically correlated with higher educational attainment and better health and negatively genetically correlated with psychological distress and schizophrenia. One single nucleotide polymorphism association replicated along with the overall direction of effect of all association results. Conclusions Re-contact availability and follow-up participation can act as further genetic filters for data on mental health phenotypes.

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