Bond JC, Abrams J, Wesselink AK, White KO, Rothman KJ, Wise LA. Predictors of non-response to a sexual health survey in a North American preconception cohort study. J Sex Med. 2022 Nov;19(11):1707-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.08.199

BACKGROUND: Refusal to participate in studies related to sexual health can compromise the internal and external validity of findings. Research examining non-response to sexual health studies has primarily focused on predictors such as specific sexual attitudes and behaviors.

AIM: Evaluate predictors of non-response to a supplemental sexual health survey added to a web-based cohort study, focusing on predictors that may be important in epidemiologic studies of sexual health.

METHODS: In March 2021, we added the "Sexual Health and Wellbeing Questionnaire" (SQ), an optional supplemental sexual health survey, to the protocol for Pregnancy Study Online, a web-based North American prospective cohort study. Eligible participants identified as female and were aged 21-45 years, actively trying to conceive, and in a relationship with a male partner. Participants completed a baseline questionnaire at enrollment and follow-up questionnaires every 8 weeks. Participants were invited to complete the SQ 30 days after baseline questionnaire completion. The analytic sample included all Pregnancy Study Online participants who enrolled between March 2021 and December 2021 and was divided into 3 mutually-exclusive groups: (i) those who completed the baseline questionnaire only (ie, did not complete a follow-up questionnaire or the SQ), (ii) those who completed at least 1 follow-up questionnaire but not the SQ, and (iii) participants who completed the SQ (with or without a follow-up questionnaire). We compared sociodemographic, medical, lifestyle, and reproductive factors across these groups.

RESULTS: Of the 1,491 enrolled participants, 302 (20.3%) completed the baseline questionnaire only, 259 (17.4%) completed a follow-up questionnaire but not the SQ, and 930 (62.4%) completed the SQ. Strong predictors of non-response (absolute difference in response >10% comparing SQ responders to baseline-only responders) included longer pregnancy attempt time at study entry, a history of infertility, and lower income and education. Compared with response to the follow-up questionnaire only, SQ response was lower among Hispanic/Latina participants and participants aged <25 years.

CLINICAL TRANSLATION: The addition of sexual health surveys to established cohort studies may be an effective way to expand epidemiologic sex research efforts.

STRENGTHS & LIMITATIONS: Study strengths include the prospective design, geographic heterogeneity of the cohort, and use of online methods. Our findings may not generalize to clinic-based sex research.

CONCLUSION: We report that in an established North American cohort study, response to the SQ exceeded 60%. We observed few strong predictors for SQ non-response among engaged participants.

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