Prenotification but not envelope teaser increased response rates in a bulimia nervosa mental health literacy survey

A randomized controlled trial

Siân A. McLean*, Susan J. Paxton, Robin Massey, Jonathan M. Mond, Bryan Rodgers, Phillipa J. Hay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives Understanding attitudes to mental health issues can inform public health interventions. However, low response rates may contribute to nonresponse bias. In a randomized controlled trial we examined the effect of sending a prenotification postcard before the questionnaire and the placement of a short message on the survey envelope (teaser) on response rates to a mailed questionnaire about bulimia nervosa "mental health literacy". Study Design and Setting Questionnaires were mailed to 3,010 adults (50.6% female and 49.4% male) aged 18-65 years. In a 2 (pre-notification-present; absent) by 2 (teaser-present; absent) design, questionnaire recipients were randomly allocated to the experimental strategies. Outcomes considered were response rate, response time, and cost. Results The overall response rate was 22.0%. Significant main effects showed higher response rates for the use of prenotification (present = 23.6%; absent = 20.3%), among female participants, and older participants. A significant interaction of teaser by gender indicated lower response rates for men who received the teaser but not for women. Older participants returned the questionnaire more promptly than younger participants. Females - but not males - who received the teaser were slower to return the questionnaire. Higher response rates for participants receiving the postcard compensated for increased costs, particularly for males and older participants. Conclusion Response rates to a mental health postal survey can be increased through the use of prenotification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-876
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Demographic groups
  • Nonresponse bias
  • Prenotification
  • Questionnaire response rates
  • Teaser

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