Influence of population versus convenience sampling on sample characteristics in studies of cognitive aging

Henry Brodaty, Annu Mothakunnel, Melissa de Vel-Palumbo, David Ames, Kathryn A. Ellis, Simone Reppermund, Nicole A. Kochan, Greg Savage, Julian N. Trollor, John Crawford, Perminder S. Sachdev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: We examined whether differences in findings of studies examining mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were associated with recruitment methods by comparing sample characteristics in two contemporaneous Australian studies, using population-based and convenience sampling. Method: The Sydney Memory and Aging Study invited participants randomly from the electoral roll in defined geographic areas in Sydney. The Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing recruited cognitively normal (CN) individuals via media appeals and MCI participants via referrals from clinicians in Melbourne and Perth. Demographic and cognitive variables were harmonized, and similar diagnostic criteria were applied to both samples retrospectively. Results: CN participants recruited via convenience sampling were younger, better educated, more likely to be married and have a family history of dementia, and performed better cognitively than those recruited via population-based sampling. MCI participants recruited via population-based sampling had better memory performance and were less likely to carry the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele than clinically referred participants but did not differ on other demographic variables. Conclusion: A convenience sample of normal controls is likely to be younger and better functioning and that of an MCI group likely to perform worse than a purportedly random sample. Sampling bias should be considered when interpreting findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Epidemiologic research design
  • Epidemiologic studies
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Patient selection
  • Selection bias


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