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Cohort studies are fundamental designs that are used in research fields of medicine, social science, psychology and any other relevant field that requires answers based on evidence. Cohorts studies are medical research used in investigating some of the causes of diseases and to establish links between the risk factors and the outcomes that come about.

Many of these studies often look at groups of people and thus can either be prospective (forward-looking) or retrospective (backward-looking). So, what are some of the examples of these types of studies?

Prospective studies are planned and thus carried out over a future period. Retrospective cohort studies on the other hand search for data that already exist and try to identify risk factors for conditions. Many of the interpretations are inadequate because researchers find it hard sharing incomplete and missing data. Some of these long-term studies are sometimes known as longitudinal studies.

In nursing cohort studies are known to observe a larger group of individuals occasionally recording some of their exposures to certain risk factors thus finding suitable indications for the causes to the diseases they are suffering. So, what is the need for a cohort study?

Although a person’s exposure at the beginning of a prospective cohort study is often known, it usually not the case. Some of the major advantages of prospective cohort studies are that patients are followed into the future, making it possible to ascertain the temporal relationship between the exposure and the outcome. It is useful in determining some of the risk factors that are associated when contracting a new disease since it is a longitudinal observation of the individual through time as the collection of data is done at regular intervals ensuring that a recall error is reduced.

It needs to be noted that cohort studies are expensive to conduct since they take a long follow-up time to generate useful data. Some of the results obtained from long-term cohort studies are known for their superior quality to those obtained from retrospective or cross-sectional studies.

Prospective cohort studies are known to yield the most reliable results whenever it comes to observational epidemiology. They enable a wide range of exposure-disease associations to be studied. Some of the examples of cohort studies in the nursing industry include the nurse health study to women’s health that was originally set up in the year 1976 to investigate the potential long-term consequences of the use of oral contraceptives.

Such examples explain some of the advantages and the strengths since standardization of outcome is possible limiting the influence of confounding variables since many of the subjects can be matched. It is known that the cohort study can sometimes be slow in yielding some of the results and may as well become expensive when conducting studies of rare diseases which can take years to develop.

Cohort studies conducted on populations are known to provide different outcomes that do not become apparent until later in the childhood whenever used in clinical teratology to comparing the frequency of birth defects among children born to women that have been treated with an agent during pregnancy to the frequency among children who have their mothers not treated. What are some of the limitations of this study?

    • Cohort studies are expensive to run and can take many years often decades in producing the desired results.
    • Most of these studies only offer clues about some of the causes to the disease, rather than proof between risk factors and health in any observational research.
    • Many of the participants may lose touch making it tough for nurses and medical professionals to continue with the research. Some suffer great injuries resulting in death.
    • Cohort studies are unsuitable for identifying some of the causes of a sudden outbreak of diseases where a case-control study can offer quicker results.

It is evident that case-control studies and cohort studies are observational studies and they exist differences that make the two differ from one another. Therefore, which is the best study to use between the two?

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