The respondent’s perspective in health-related surveys

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Declining response rates are threatening the usefulness of and confidence in survey data. Survey practitioners have therefore studied why nonrespondents refuse to respond and have tried to counter the declining response rates by intensified follow-up methods. Such efforts sometimes yield negative reactions among respondents. This thesis focuses on the respondent’s perspective in self-administered health-related surveys. The aim was to investigate positive and negative aspects that respondents experience when participating in surveys, to study factors that could increase motivation and to study possibilities to increase response rates in a way that promotes data quality as well as positive experiences among respondents. Self-Determination Theory is a motivation theory that was used as a theoretical framework.Paper I is a study regarding two self-administered health questionnaires among patients in 20 intervention groups in 18 Swedish hospitals. Paper II is a qualitative analysis of data from telephone interviews with respondents to a self-administered health-related survey of the population in the county of Östergötland. Paper III is a randomized experiment in a self-administered survey of a random sample of parents in the municipality of Stockholm. Paper IV is an experimental study concerning a self-administered health questionnaire in a random sample of the general adult population in the county of Östergötland.The results from paper I show that questionnaire length and ease of response were not crucial arguments in choosing between two health questionnaires for use in routine health care. Instead, the most common motives for the choice concerned aspects of the questions’ comprehensiveness and ability to describe the health condition. Respondent satisfaction as described by respondents in paper II includes being able to give correct and truthful information as well as reflection and new insights from the questions. Respondent burden includes experiences of being manipulated or controlled by the researcher as well as worry, anxiety or sadness caused by the questions. Experiences of satisfaction and burden differed depending on the respondents’ primary motive for participating in surveys. The findings of paper III illustrate that the use of lottery tickets as incentives to parents may be less valuable or even harmful as a means of increasing response rates. In paper IV a survey design inspired by Self-Determination Theory yielded higher satisfaction among respondents and improved response rates with similar or better data quality compared with a standard design.Focusing on the respondents’ perspective provided important new knowledge. The results show a broad spectrum of positive as well as negative aspects of survey participation. The results support Self-Determination Theory as a useful theoretical framework for studying motivation in survey research and an interesting additional source to provide ideas on how to design surveys with the potential to motivate respondents. The results suggest that it is possible to improve response rates in a way that promotes data quality as well as positive experiences among the respondents.

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