Background In cohorts with voluntary participation, participants may not be representative of the underlying population, leading to distorted estimates. If the relevant sources of selective participation are observed, it is however possible to restore the representativeness by reweighting the sample to resemble the target population. So far, few studies in epidemiology have applied reweighting based on extensive register data on socio-demographics and disease history, or with self-reported data on health and health-related behaviors. Methods We examined selective participation at baseline and the first two follow-ups of the Scania Public Health Cohort (SPHC), a survey conducted in Southern Sweden in 1999/2000 (baseline survey; n = 13,581 participants, 58% participation rate), 2005 (first follow-up, n = 10,471), and 2010 (second follow-up; n = 9,026). Survey participants were reweighted to resemble the underlying population with respect to a broad range of socio-demographic, disease, and health-related characteristics, and we assessed how selective participation impacted the validity of associations between self-reported overall health and dimensions of socio-demographics and health. Results Participants in the baseline and follow-up surveys were healthier and more likely to be female, born in Sweden, middle-aged, and have higher socioeconomic status. However, the differences were not very large. In turn, reweighting the samples to match the target population had generally small or moderate impacts on associations. Most examined regression coefficients changed by less than 20%, with virtually no changes in the directions of the effects. Conclusion Overall, selective participation with respect to the observed factors was not strong enough to substantially alter the associations with self-assessed health. These results are consistent with an interpretation that SPHC has high validity, perhaps reflective of a relatively high participation rate. Since validity must be determined on a case-by-case basis, however, researchers should apply the same method to other health cohorts to assess and potentially improve the validity.