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

By Mark J Adams, W. David Hill, David M Howard, Katrina A. S. Davis, Ian J Deary, Matthew H Hotopf, Andrew M McIntosh

Posted 19 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/471433

People who opt to participate in scientific studies tend to be healthier, wealthier, and more educated than the broader population. While 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). We used data from UK Biobank and Generation Scotland and conducted phenotypic and genome-wide association analyses on two phenotypes that reflected mental health data availability: (1) whether participants were contactable by email for follow-up) and (2) whether participants responded to a follow-up surveys of mental health. We identified nine genetic loci associated with email 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. Recontact availability and follow-up participation can act as further genetic filters for data on mental health phenotypes.

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