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Increasing response rates to lifestyle surveys: a review of methodology and 'good practice'.

By Serena McCluskey and Annie Topping


Background\ud Lifestyle surveys are traditionally used for collecting detailed population information about\ud individual behaviours that impact on health. However, declining response rates and the\ud under-representation of certain population groups in lifestyle survey data has led to\ud uncertainty over the accuracy of any findings. In order to maximise response rates, a\ud mixed-methods approach is now recommended. This review was carried out in order to\ud examine the methodological literature related to the administration of lifestyle surveys and\ud the implications for response rates. It was envisaged that the results of this review could\ud provide a valuable resource for those involved in undertaking lifestyle surveys.\ud Methods\ud A review of the empirical evidence and published literature on the methodological\ud considerations associated with administration of lifestyle surveys, specifically in relation to\ud maximising response rates, was carried out. A search for ‘grey literature’ was also\ud conducted using the internet, and citation tracking was performed on all retrieved articles.\ud A request for examples of relevant lifestyle survey work, particularly those incorporating\ud mixed-methods designs and/or strategies to increase response rates, was distributed to\ud several Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across England. The responses are illustrated as\ud ‘good practice’ case studies.\ud Results\ud The postal questionnaire remains an important lifestyle survey tool, but response rates\ud have decreased rapidly in recent years. Interviews and telephone surveys are\ud recommended in order to supplement data from postal questionnaires to overcome any\ud literacy and language barriers. These approaches are advocated to increase response\ud rates in some population groups, but costs may be prohibitive. Electronic surveys are a\ud cheaper alternative, but the evidence seems to suggest that the use of the internet does\ud not appear to increase overall response rates to surveys. Evidence on the use of\ud incentives suggests they can be effective at increasing response rates, but only if their use\ud is tailored to the design of the survey and to the characteristics of target populations.\ud Conclusions\ud The empirical evidence was not robust enough to make definitive recommendations, but\ud information from the published literature, along with examples of ‘good practice’ in lifestyle\ud survey work suggests that supplementing, or offering different survey modes, alongside\ud targeted maximisation strategies can increase coverage and also, with careful planning,\ud can prove to be cost-effective

Topics: H1
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:6878

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