Background - The health and well-being of volunteer donors is of critical concern for blood collection agencies responsible for ensuring a stable supply of blood products. However, lay understandings of the impact of donating blood on health remain poorly understood. As lay perceptions are likely to influence critical decisions about donation, understanding these perceptions is key for informing evidence-based approaches to donor retention and recruitment. As such, we conducted a systematic review of the blood donation literature to identify donors’ and non-donors’ perceptions of the short and longer-term physiological health effects of whole-blood and/or blood product donation.
M&M - This review was conducted in line with PRISMA guidelines. Studies published from January 1995 to February 2021 were included. Perceptions were defined as both experiences and beliefs. Psychological effects were considered outside the scope of the review.
Results - A total of 247 studies were included. Most studies (89.5%) had donation-related health perceptions as a background rather than a central (10.5%) focus, and they were only assessed in relation to whole blood donation. More results focused on health-related beliefs than experiences (82 vs 18%), specific rather than general beliefs and experiences (80 vs 20%) and more frequently examined negative than positive beliefs and experiences (83 vs 17%). The most commonly studied and reported specific negative beliefs related to increased risk of infectious disease, reduced vitality, vasovagal reactions and low iron. Most studies examining specific negative beliefs were conducted in Asian countries.
Discussion - Findings reinforce that lay perspectives on how donation impacts health are under-researched, and it is difficult to know how important these are in informing critical decisions about donation for donors and non-donors. We suggest that further research with donation-related health beliefs and experiences as the central focus is needed to provide insights to inform communications with donors and the public.