Objective: Very little is known about predictors of response rates to long-term follow-up mail-out surveys, including whether the timing of an incentive affects response rates. We aimed to determine whether the timing of the incentive affects response rates and what baseline demographic and psychological factors predict response rates to a 12 year follow-up survey. Study design and setting: Participants were 450 randomly selected people from the Penrith population, Australia who had previously participated in a mail-out survey 12 years earlier. By random allocation, 150 people received no incentive, 150 received a lottery ticket inducement with the follow-up survey and 150 received a lottery ticket inducement on the return of a completed survey. Results: The overall response rate for the study was 63%. There were no significant differences in terms of response rates between the no incentive (58.8%;95%CI 49.8%,67.3%), incentive with survey (65.1%;95%CI 56.2%, 73.3%) and promised incentive (65.3%;95%CI 56.1%,73.7%) groups. Independent predictors of responding to the 12 year survey were being older (OR=1.02, 95%CI 1.01,1.05,P=0.001) and being less neurotic as reported on the first survey 12 years earlier (OR=0.92, 95%CI 0.86,0.98, P=0.010). Conclusions: Psychological factors may play a role in determining who responds to long-term follow-up surveys although timing of incentives does not.