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J Clin Epidemiol. 2003 Mar;56(3):256-61.

Irritable bowel syndrome: are incentives useful for improving survey response rates?

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  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta 2N 4N1, Canada.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. There continues to be a need for community-based research into this condition. Unfortunately, response rates in community-based IBS surveys have typically been very low. In this study, we explore the use of incentives and multiple-response options as a means of increasing survey response rates. The study was conducted in three phases. In an initial phase, no incentive was offered; in the second phase, a 5.00 Canadian dollars incentive was offered; and in the third phase, a 20.00 Canadian dollars incentive was offered. Response rates were higher in the incentive groups: Individual response rates were 57.9%, 72.7%, and 84.7% in the three phases, respectively. A slightly higher estimate of IBS prevalence was obtained in the no incentive group. Selection bias is a possible explanation for this difference. A decision about whether to use incentives must be based on the specific goals of the study.

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