Large-scale population biobanks are critical for future research integrating epidemiology, genetic, biomarker and other factors. Little is known about the factors influencing participation in biobanks. This study compares the characteristics of biobank participants with those of non-participants, among members of an existing cohort study.
Individuals aged 45 and over participating in The 45 and Up Study and living ≤20km from central Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (NSW), Australia (rural/regional area) or ≤10km from central Parramatta, NSW (urban area) (n=2340) were invited to join a biobank, giving a blood sample and having additional measures taken, including height, weight, waist circumference, heart rate and blood pressure.
The overall uptake of the invitation to participate was 33% (762/2340). The response rate was 41% (410/1002) among participants resident in the regional area, and 26% (352/1338) among those resident in the urban area. Characteristics associated with significantly decreased participation were being aged 80 and over versus being aged 45–64 (participation rate ratio: RR = 0.45, 95%CI 0.34-0.60), not being born in Australia versus being born in Australia (0.69, 0.59-0.81), having versus not having a major disability (0.54, 0.38-0.76), having full-time caregiving responsibilities versus not being a full-time carer (0.62, 0.42-0.93) and being a current smoker versus never having smoked (0.66, 0.50-0.89). Factors associated with increased participation were being in part-time work versus not being in paid work (1.24, 1.07-1.44) and having an annual household income of ≥$50,000 versus <$20,000 (1.50, 1.26-1.80).
A range of socio-economic, health and lifestyle factors are associated with biobank participation among members of an existing cohort study, with factors relating to health-seeking behaviours and access difficulties or time limitations being particularly important. If more widespread participation in biobanking is desired, particularly to ensure sufficient numbers among those most affected by these issues, specific efforts may be required to increase participation in certain groups such as migrants, the elderly, and those in poor health. Whilst caution should be exercised when generalising estimates of absolute prevalence from biobanks, estimates for many internal comparisons are likely to remain valid.