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Importance of accounting for loss to follow-up when comparing mortality between immigrants and long-term residents: a population-based retrospective cohort

Vyas MV, Fang J, Austin PC, Laupacis A, Cheung MC, Silver FL, Kapral MK. BMJ Open. 2021; 11(11):e046377. Epub 2021 Nov 2. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046377


Objectives — To evaluate the association between immigration status and all-cause mortality in different disease cohorts, and the impact of loss to follow-up on the observed associations.

Design — Population-based retrospective cohort study using linked administrative health data in Ontario, Canada.

Setting — We followed adults with a first-ever diagnosis of ischaemic stroke, cancer or schizophrenia between 2002 and 2013 from index event to death, loss to follow-up, or end of follow-up in 2018.

Primary and Secondary Outcome Measures — Our outcomes of interest were all-cause mortality and loss to follow-up. For each disease cohort, we calculated adjusted HRs of death in immigrants compared with long-term residents, adjusting for demographic characteristics and comorbidities, with and without censoring for those who were lost to follow-up. We calculated the ratio of two the HRs and the respective CL using bootstrapping methods.

Results — Immigrants were more likely to be lost to follow-up than long-term residents in all disease cohorts. Not accounting for this loss to follow-up overestimated the magnitude of the association between immigration status and mortality in those with ischaemic stroke (HR of death before vs after accounting for censoring: 0.78 vs 0.83, ratio=0.95; 95% CL 0.93 to 0.97), cancer (0.74 vs 0.78, ratio=0.96; 0.95 to 0.96), and schizophrenia (0.54 vs 0.56, ratio=0.97; 0.96 to 0.98).

Conclusions — Immigrants to Canada have a survival advantage that varies by the disease studied. The magnitude of this advantage is modestly overestimated by not accounting for the higher loss to follow-up in immigrants.

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