European Project on Osteoarthritis (EPOSA): Methodological challenges in harmonization of existing data from five European population-based cohorts on aging

Laura A. Schaap, Geeske Mee Peeters, Elaine M. Dennison, Sabina Zambon, Thorsten Nikolaus, Mercedes Sanchez-Martinez, Estella Musacchio, Natasja M. Van Schoor, Dorly J H Deeg

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Background: The European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA), here presented for the first time, is a collaborative study involving five European cohort studies on aging. This project focuses on the personal and societal burden and its determinants of osteoarthritis (OA). The aim of the current report is to describe the purpose of the project, the post harmonization of the cross-national data and methodological challenges related to the harmonization process. Methods. The study includes data from cohort studies in five European countries (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom) on older community-dwelling persons aged 59 years. The study design and main characteristics of the five cohort studies are described. Post harmonization algorithms are developed by finding a "common denominator" to merge the datasets and weights are calculated to adjust for differences in age and sex distribution across the datasets. Results: A harmonized database was developed, consisting of merged data from all participating countries. In total, 10107 persons are included in the harmonized dataset with a mean age of 72.8 years (SD 6.1). The female/male ratio is 53.3/46.7%. Some variables were difficult to harmonize due to differences in wording and categories, differences in classifications and absence of data in some countries. The post harmonization algorithms are described in detail in harmonization guidelines attached to this paper. Conclusions: There was little evidence of agreement on the use of several core data collection instruments, in particular on the measurement of OA. The heterogeneity of OA definitions hampers comparing prevalence rates of OA, but other research questions can be investigated using high quality harmonized data. By publishing the harmonization guidelines, insight is given into (the interpretation of) all post harmonized data of the EPOSA study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number272
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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