INTRODUCTION: High participation in epidemiological studies is crucial for both external and internal validity. Because response rates have declined in recent years, there is an increasing need to understand the drivers and the barriers to research participation. This study aims to uncover the motivations in favour and against participation of older adults to an epidemiological study on health and dementia. METHODS: Twenty-two older adults, who already took part to the preliminary phase of an epidemiological study in Switzerland, agreed to participate to semi-structured, face-to- face interviews. An experienced researcher carried out all interviews in a quiet place of choice of the interviewee either at their domicile or the university, between November 2019 and January 2020. The interviews were audio and video taped, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analysed by two independent researchers. RESULTS: We identified three main themes for the motivations in favour of participation (i.e. personal, related to the outcomes of research, and altruistic motivations), and we highlighted subthemes for each theme (e.g. personal motivations: curiosity; civic engagement; interest in the topic; trust in science; everyone counts; openness; play the game). Motivations against participation reflected the first two themes, while there was no counterpart for altruistic motivations. CONCLUSIONS: Our thematic analysis revealed that older adults hold specular motivations in favour and against participation to research. Studying jointly motivations in favour and against provides information for recruitment strategies and to overcome barriers to participation, respectively. Participatory action research can inform the design and conduction of and should precede epidemiological studies in older adults, and can potentially contribute to attain high response rates.
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