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Epidemiology. 2012 Sep;23(5):729-32. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182576cdb.

Missing data: a systematic review of how they are reported and handled.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. i.eekhout@vumc.nl

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The objectives of this systematic review are to examine how researchers report missing data in questionnaires and to provide an overview of current methods for dealing with missing data.

METHODS:

We included 262 studies published in 2010 in 3 leading epidemiologic journals. Information was extracted on how missing data were reported, types of missing, and methods for dealing with missing data.

RESULTS:

Seventy-eight percent of the studies lacked clear information about the measurement instruments. Missing data in multi-item instruments were not handled differently from other missing data. Complete-case analysis was most frequently reported (81% of the studies), and the selectivity of missing data was seldom examined.

CONCLUSIONS:

Although there are specific methods for handling missing data in item scores and in total scores of multi-item instruments, these are seldom applied. Researchers mainly use complete-case analysis for both types of missing, which may seriously bias the study results.

PMID:
22584299
DOI:
10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182576cdb
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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