University of York-Led Study Reveals Individual Fear is the Prime Reason People don’t’ Participate in Clinical Trials

University of York-Led Study Reveals Individual Fear is the Prime Reason People don’t’ Participate in Clinical Trials

The University of York in the UK recently conducted a study showcasing the influence that the emotion of fear plays in driving individual’s reluctance to participate in a clinical trial. The implications are very real; with the UK, nearly 2/3 of all clinical trials fail to meet their recruitment targets and hence, most studies are at risk.

The Study

Led by a team out of the University of York and Hull York Medical School, the British-based researchers found that the number one reason why potential study participants bow out concerns absolute fear of new treatments and the possible side effects they may induce.

The team studied more than 400 studies sourced from all over the globe centering on the primary reason behind recruitment to health and medical studies. Concerns about privacy and confidentiality also play an ever-increasing role. Black and minorities in the UK distrust researchers even more.


The research did discover that once a participant agrees to join a study, they do so because 1) trust in doctors and clinical staff, 2) help others, and 3) potential improvements to their own health. UK researchers from University of York suggest new “schemes” must be developed to secure greater participation rates. Hence, they suggest new “schemes” will be required to motivate and mobilize people to boost clinical trial participation rates. Why? Because current methods generally don’t work that well. Moving forward, researchers must better understand psycho-social factors involved with the targeted patient population and develop strategies and tactics that not only establish an engaged and communicative model, but one that facilitates and builds trust.  

The formula undoubtedly involves understanding the potential participants and tapping into altruistic motives while ensuring that growing trust overcomes the risk to “fight or flight.”

Lead Research/Investigator

·       Rebecca Sheridan, University of York

·       Jaqueline Martin kerry, University of York

·       Joanna Hudson, Kings College

·       Adowa Parker, University of York

·       Peter Bower, University of Manchester

·       Peter Knapp, University of York and the Hull York Medical School

Call to Action: Patient recruitment is not an afterthought for a clinical trial—it recommends a fundamental strategy that must be incorporated by those that author the clinical protocol.