Missing data: A systematic review of how they are reported and handled


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 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.