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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 1988 Jun;7(2):163-72.

Some methodological aspects of using postal questionnaires with the elderly.

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Research Team for the Care of the Elderly, University of Wales College of Medicine, St. David's Hospital, Cardiff, UK.


Postal questionnaires are not usually recommended for use with the elderly. This paper describes a methodological study of the use of a postal questionnaire as a method of data collection with older subjects. In particular the problems of generating an adequate response rate, of non-response bias and response quality are addressed. It is shown that postal questionnaires can generate response rates in excess of 80% with older subjects. Questionnaire length was not associated with response rate. Non-response was highest amongst the older age groups suggesting that this method of data collection is subject to non-response bias, thereby understanding the effects of age. The format of question presentation was associated with both response rate and response quality. It is concluded that postal questionnaires are a useful and cost-effective way of collecting survey data from older subjects. In particular such techniques may be effectively employed as a method of routinely screening older people living in the community.

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