Cohort Studies: Is a study design where one or more people (called cohorts) are followed and subsequent status evaluations with respect to a disease or outcome are conducted to determine which participants exposure characteristics (risk factors) are associated. They can be prospective studies that gather data going forward, or retrospective cohort studies, which look at data already collected. As the study is conducted, outcome from participants in each cohort is measured and relationships with specific characteristics determined. Cohort studies normally observe large groups of individuals and record their exposure to certain risk factors in order to find clues as to the possible causes of disease.
This type of research can also help identify social factors that influence health.
The fundamentals of a cohort study are:
a. Identify people who are free of disease at the beginning of the study
b. Assemble cohorts of exposed and unexposed individuals
c. Follow cohorts for the development of incident outcomes
d. Compare the risks of incident outcomes in each cohort
- Cheaper & easier than a randomized controlled trial (RCT)
- Standardization of criteria/outcome is possible
- Subjects can be matched, which limits the influence of confounding variables
- Cohorts can be difficult to identify from confounding variables
- No randomization, which means that imbalances could exist
- Blinding/Masking is difficult
- Outcome of interest can take a long time to occur
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