Differences Between Cross-sectional Study & Longitudinal Study

  • Although cross-sectional study and longitudinal study are both observational studies, there are multiple differences in their scope, methods, advantages and limitations. Here are the list of 21 major differences between cross-sectional study and longitudinal study. They are:

    S.N. Cross-sectional study Longitudinal study
    1 Cross-sectional studies are carried out in one specific point of time Longitudinal studies are carried out over the period of time
    2 It provides a snapshot of the situation It provides a long-term analysis of the situation
    3 Only the present situation is seen Evolutionary characters are seen.
    4 There will be no interventions There may be interventions while conducting this study
    5 In this study, participants are needed only once for the study purpose In this study, participants are engaged throughout the study
    6 Data is collected from different samples at one specific point of time Data is collected from the same sample over the period of time
    7 Individuals are studied/analyzed at one point of time The cohort is followed up over the period of time
    8 It is known as descriptive research It is known as causal or relational research
    9 The advantage of this design is that it allows researchers to compare different variables (age, sex, gender, income etc.) at single point in time Here, only one variable is considered to conduct the study over a period of time.
    10 It can provide information about the current status/what is happening at present It can provide information about what is happening in a certain period of time
    11 It does not provide information and cannot establish cause and effect relationships It can establish and justify cause and effect relationships
    12 Researchers are not able to detect developments or changes in the characteristics of the target population Researchers are able to detect developments or changes in the characteristics of the target population at both the group and the individual level
    13 These studies take relatively shorter time than longitudinal studies These studies take longer time compared to cross-sectional studies
    14 Single observation of the subject is done at a specific point of time Several observations of same subjects are done over a period of time
    15 It can compare different samples at one given point in time It measures single group over an extended period of time
    16 Economically, cross-sectional studies are cheaper and cost effective compared to longitudinal studies Economically, longitudinal studies are expensive compared to cross-sectional studies
    17 The results are not considered very strong and confident i.e. the strength of the study is less compared to longitudinal study The results are stronger and have detailed information i.e. the strength of the study is high compared to cross-sectional study
    18 Cross-sectional studies may not discover any ‘sleeper effects’ Longitudinal studies can also help to discover ‘sleeper effects’ or connection between different events over a period of time.
    19 Findings from cross-sectional studies aren’t enough to make conclusive observations about any association/significance between variables Findings from longitudinal studies could be used to make conclusive results or associations between variables
    20 Less challenging in enrolling and requires no follow up of participants Disadvantage- challenging to enroll and follow up participants over the period of time
    21 No scope for loss to follow up of participants May also result in loss to follow up of participants

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