Too many cohorts and repeated measurements are a waste of resources

Fetene B. Tekle*, Frans E. S. Tan, Martijn P. F. Berger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Researchers in Health Sciences and Medicine often use cohort designs to study treatment effects and changes of outcome variables over time period. The costs of these studies can be reduced by choosing an optimal number of repeated measurements over time and by selecting cohorts of subjects more efficiently with optimal design procedures. The objective of this study is to provide evidence on how to design large-scale cohort studies with budget constraints as efficiently as possible. Study Design and Setting: A linear cost function for repeated measurements is proposed, and this cost function is used in the optimization procedure. For a given budget/cost, different designs for linear mixed-effects models are compared by means of their efficiency. Results: We found that adding more repeated measures is only beneficiary if the costs of selecting and measuring a new subject are much higher than the costs of obtaining an additional measurement for an already recruited subject. However, this gain in efficiency and power is not very large. Conclusion: Adding more cohorts or repeated measurements do not necessarily lead to a gain in efficiency of the estimated model parameters. A general guideline for the optimal choice of a cohort design in practice is required and we offer this guideline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1383-1390
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Cohort design
  • Costs
  • D-optimal designs
  • Longitudinal study
  • Mixed-effects model
  • Relative efficiency

Cite this