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Comparison of the sociodemographic characteristics of the large NutriNet-Santé e-cohort with French Census data: the issue of volunteer bias revisited
  1. Valentina A Andreeva1,
  2. Benoît Salanave2,
  3. Katia Castetbon2,
  4. Valérie Deschamps2,
  5. Michel Vernay2,
  6. Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot1,
  7. Serge Hercberg1,2,3
  1. 1Université Paris 13, Equipe de Recherche en Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle (EREN), Centre de Recherche en Epidémiologie et Statistiques, Inserm (U1153), Inra (U1125), Cnam, COMUE Sorbonne Paris Cité, Bobigny, France
  2. 2Unité de Surveillance en Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle (USEN), Institut de Veille Sanitaire, Université Paris 13, Centre d'Epidémiologie et Biostatistiques, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Bobigny, France
  3. 3Département de Santé Publique, Hôpital Avicenne, Bobigny, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Valentina A Andreeva, Université Paris 13, Equipe de Recherche en Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle (EREN), Centre de Recherche en Epidémiologie et Statistiques, Inserm (U1153), Inra (U1125), Cnam, COMUE Sorbonne Paris Cité SMBH 74 rue Marcel Cachin, Bobigny 93017, France; v.andreeva{at}uren.smbh.univ-paris13.fr

Abstract

Background A recurring concern in traditional and in Web-based studies pertains to non-representativeness due to volunteer bias. We investigated this issue in an ongoing, large population-based e-cohort.

Methods The sample included 122 912 individuals enrolled in the Internet-based, nutrition-focused NutriNet-Santé study between May 2009 and March 2014, with complete baseline data. Participants were recruited via recurrent multimedia campaigns and other traditional and online strategies. Individuals aged 18+ years, residing in France and having Internet access, were eligible for enrolment. Their sociodemographic characteristics were compared with the corresponding 2009 Census data via χ2 goodness-of-fit tests. The effectiveness of statistical weighting of the e-cohort data was also explored.

Results The sample exhibited marked geographical and sociodemographic diversity, including volunteers belonging to typically under-represented subgroups in traditional surveys (unemployed, immigrants, the elderly). Nonetheless, the proportions of women, relatively well-educated individuals and those who are married or cohabiting, were notably larger compared with the corresponding national figures (women: 78.0% vs 52.4%; postsecondary education: 61.5% vs 24.9%; married or cohabiting: 70.8% vs 62.0%, respectively; all p<0.0001).

Conclusions There were notable sociodemographic differences between the general French population and this general population-based e-cohort, some of which were corrected by statistical weighting. The findings bear on the potential generalisability of future investigations in the context of e-epidemiology.

  • Cohort studies
  • Epidemiological methods
  • RESEARCH METHODS
  • Research Design in Epidemiology

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