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Epidemiology:
doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182576cdb
Methods

Missing Data: A Systematic Review of How They Are Reported and Handled

Eekhout, Irisa,b,c; de Boer, R. Michielc,d; Twisk, Jos W. R.a,b,c; de Vet, Henrica C. W.a,b; Heymans, Martijn W.a,b,c

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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.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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