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Epidemiology and Population Health

Learning from missing data: examining nonreporting patterns of height, weight, and BMI among Canadian youth

Subjects

Abstract

Background

Youth body mass index (BMI), derived from self-reported height and weight, is commonly prone to nonreporting. A considerable proportion of overweight and obesity (OWOB) research relies on such self-report data, however little literature to date has examined this nonreporting and the potential impact on research conclusions. The objective of this study was to examine the characteristics and predictors of missing data in youth BMI, height, and weight.

Methods

Using a sample of 74,501 Canadian secondary school students who participated in the COMPASS study in 2018/19, sex-stratified generalized linear mixed models were run to examine predictors of missing data while controlling for school-level clustering.

Results

In this sample, 31% of BMI data were missing. A variety of diet, exercise, mental health, and substance use variables were associated with BMI, height, and weight missingness. Perceptions of being overweight (females: 95% CI (1.42,1.62), males: 95% CI (1.71,2.00)) as well as intentions to lose weight (females: 95% CI (1.17,1.33), males: 95% CI (1.13,1.32)) were positively associated with BMI missingness.

Conclusions

Findings from this study suggest that nonreporting in youth height and weight is likely somewhat related to the values themselves, and hint that social desirability may play a substantial role in nonreporting. The predictors of missingness identified in this study can be used to inform future studies on the potential bias stemming from missing data and identify auxiliary variables that may be used for multiple imputation approaches.

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Fig. 1: Degrees of item nonresponse across a sample of COMPASS variables (2018–19).
Fig. 2: BMI missingness categories by reported sex (COMPASS 2018–19).

Data availability

Data are from the COMPASS study whose authors may be contacted at adoggett@uwaterloo.ca. COMPASS data are stored at the University of Waterloo on a secure server. STL maintains ownership of all COMPASS data, and will grant access to COMPASS collaborators, their research teams, and external research teams and students. For researchers to gain access to the COMPASS data, they must successfully complete the COMPASS data usage application, which will be reviewed by STL (https://uwaterloo.ca/compass-system/information-researchers). Researchers can contact the University of Waterloo’s Office of Research Ethics (ohrac@uwaterloo.ca) for further information.

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Acknowledgements

The COMPASS study has been supported by a bridge grant from the CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes (INMD) through the “Obesity—Interventions to Prevent or Treat” priority funding awards (OOP-110788; awarded to STL), an operating grant from the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health (IPPH) (MOP-114875; awarded to STL), a CIHR project grant (PJT-148562; awarded to SL), a CIHR bridge grant (PJT-149092; awarded to KP/STL), a CIHR project grant (PJT-159693; awarded to KP), and by a research funding arrangement with Health Canada (#1617-HQ-000012; contract awarded to STL), and a CIHR-Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) team grant (OF7 B1-PCPEGT 410-10-9633; awarded to STL). The COMPASS-Quebec project additionally benefits from funding from the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux of the province of Québec, and the Direction régionale de santé publique du CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale.

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AD, AC, JPC, and STL contributed to project conceptualization. AD and AC planned the methodology, and AD conducted the formal analysis. AD did the original draft preparation. SL acquired funding, managed resources, and provided supervision for the host study and corresponding data in this manuscript. AD, AC, JPC, and STL reviewed and edited the manuscript for critical content. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amanda Doggett.

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Doggett, A., Chaurasia, A., Chaput, JP. et al. Learning from missing data: examining nonreporting patterns of height, weight, and BMI among Canadian youth. Int J Obes (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-022-01154-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-022-01154-8

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