Public Health Nutrition

Assessment and methodology

Feedback in web-based questionnaires as incentive to increase compliance in studies on lifestyle factors

Olle Bältera1, Elinor Fondella2a3 and Katarina Bältera2 c1

a1 School of Computer Science and Communication, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

a2 Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

a3 Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Objective We explored the use of feedback in interactive web-based questionnaires for collecting data on lifestyle factors in epidemiological studies.

Design Here we report from a cohort study on lifestyle factors and upper respiratory tract infections among 1805 men and women. We introduced interactivity in the form of personalized feedback and feedback on a group level regarding dietary intake, physical activity and incidence of infections in web-based questionnaires as incentives for the respondents to continue answering questions and stay in the study.

Setting The study was performed in Sweden.

Subjects All participants were randomly selected from the population registry.

Results Personalized feedback was offered in the baseline questionnaire and feedback on a group level in the five follow-up questionnaires. In total, 88 % of the participants actively chose to get personalized feedback at least once in the baseline questionnaire. The follow-up questionnaires were sent by email and the overall compliance at each follow-up was 83–84 %, despite only one reminder. In total, 74 % completed all five follow-ups. However, the compliance was higher among those who chose feedback in the baseline questionnaire compared with those who did not choose feedback.

Conclusions The results show that it is possible to use feedback in web questionnaires and that it has the potential to increase compliance. The majority of the participants actively chose to take part in the personalized feedback in the baseline questionnaire and future research should focus on improving the design of the feedback, which may ultimately result in even higher compliance in research studies.

(Received June 21 2010)

(Accepted October 25 2011)

(Online publication November 29 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email