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Iron deficiency in blood donors: a national cross-sectional study


  • This study was supported by a research grant from the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.



Iron deficiency (ID) is an important consequence of blood donation. The epidemiology of this problem in the blood donor population was therefore studied to enable appropriate targeting of potential solutions to donor ID.

Study Design and Methods

A nationally representative, cluster-based cross-sectional study of Australian blood donors was performed. Donors were eligible for inclusion if they fulfilled criteria for blood donation or were deferred due to low or falling hemoglobin. Ferritin was measured and demographic and donation data were collected.


A total of 3094 blood donors were recruited, of which samples were collected from 3049 donors; 1873 had exclusively donated whole blood (WB only), 242 had exclusively made apheresis donations, and 530 had not donated (“new” donors) in the previous 24 months. The prevalence of ID in new female donors was 12.0% compared with 1.3% in males. The prevalence of ID in female WB-only donors was 26.4%; it increased with donation frequency and decreased with age. The prevalence in male WB-only donors was 6.3% with no evident change with age or donation frequency. The prevalence of ID in apheresis-only donors (females 6.3%; males 2.2%) did not significantly exceed that of new donors nor did it change with donation frequency. Importantly, the risk of ID could not be satisfactorily predicted in an individual donor by his or her anemia status or with predictive modeling incorporating demographic and donation data.


ID is especially prevalent in female, premenopausal, frequent WB donors. Strategies to combat ID should be implemented, specifically targeting this group.

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