BACKGROUND: The healthy donor effect (HDE) is a selection bias caused by the health criteria blood donors must meet. It obscures investigations of beneficial/adverse health effects of blood donation and complicates the generalizability of findings from blood donor cohorts. To further characterize the HDE we investigated how self-reported health and lifestyle are associated with becoming a blood donor, lapsing, and donation intensity. Furthermore, we examined differences in mortality based on donor status.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: The Danish National Health Survey was linked to the Scandinavian Donations and Transfusions (SCANDAT) database and Danish register data. Logistic- and normal regression was used to compare baseline characteristics and participation. Poisson regression was used to investigate future donation choices. Donation intensity was explored by the Anderson-Gill model and Poisson regression. Mortality was investigated using Poisson regression.
RESULTS: Blood donors were more likely to participate in the surveys, OR = 2.45 95% confidence interval (2.40-2.49) than non-donors. Among survey participants, better self-reported health and healthier lifestyle were associated with being or becoming a blood donor, donor retention, and to some extent donation intensity, for example, current smoking conveyed lower likelihood of becoming a donor, OR = 0.70 (0.66-0.75). We observed lower mortality for donors and survey participants, respectively, compared with non-participating non-donors.
CONCLUSION: We provide evidence that blood donation is associated with increased likelihood to participate in health surveys, possibly a manifestation of the HDE. Furthermore, becoming a blood donor, donor retention, and donation intensity was associated with better self-reported health and healthier lifestyles.