Study quality was assessed using the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies (National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, 2014). This 14-question checklist has been suggested as a suitable tool for assessing important characteristics of prospective cohort studies (Ma et al., 2020). The 14 questions were related to (1) research objective, (2) study population, (3) participation rate, (4) participant recruitment and application of eligibility criteria, (5) sample size justification, (6) exposure assessed prior to outcome measurement, (7) time interval between baseline assessment and follow-up assessment, (8) different levels of the exposure measure, (9) a clear definition of the exposure measure, (10) repeated exposure measurement, (11) a clear definition of the outcome measure, (12) blinding of outcome assessor(s), (13) follow-up rate, and (14) statistical control for confounding variables. A total quality score was derived by summing up all the yes-no responses (0 = ‘no’, 1 = ‘yes’). One of three overall quality ratings was assigned to each study (10 < ‘poor’, 10 = ‘fair’, 10 > ‘good’). Studies were assessed independently by two assessors (KC and JH). Any discrepancies in scorings were discussed and resolved, and discussion outcomes were recorded electronically. The interclass correlation coefficient between the two assessors was .80 with a 95% confidence interval of .55 – .91 (F (24, 24) = 5.07, p < .001).

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