Non-participation and attrition are rarely studied despite being important methodological issues when performing post-disaster studies. A longitudinal survey of civilians exposed to the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France, was conducted 6 (Wave 1) and 18 months (Wave 2) after the attacks. We described non-participation in Wave 1 and determined the factors associated with attrition in Wave 2.
Multivariate logistic regression models were used to compare participants in both waves with those who participated in the first wave only. Analyses were performed taking the following factors into account: socio-demographic characteristics, exposure to terror, peri-traumatic reactions, psychological support, perceived social support, impact on work, social and family life, and mental health disorders. Characteristics of new participants in Wave 2 were compared with participants in both waves using a chi-square test.
Of the 390 persons who were eligible to participate in the survey, 190 participated in Wave 1 (participation rate: 49%). The most frequently reported reason for non-participation was to avoid being reminded of the painful event (32%, n = 34/105). In Wave 2, 67 were lost to follow-up, 141 people participated, of whom 123 participated in Wave 1 (re-participation rate: 65%) and 18 were new. Attrition in Wave 2 was associated with socio-demographic characteristics (age, French origin) and location during the attacks, but not with terror exposure or mental health disorders. Compared with those who participated in both waves, new participants declared less social and psychological support since the attacks.
Attrition at 6 months was not associated with exposure to terror or mental health disorders, which indicates that any bias in future analyses on IMPACTS on mental health outcomes will be limited. Our findings suggest the importance of adapting similar surveys for people of foreign origin and of improving strategies to avoid attrition of younger people, for example by using social media, peers, and the educational environment. The present study also revealed that a high level of exposure to terror and a lack of social and psychological support after a terrorist event could impede individuals’ participation in similar surveys in the short term.