Questionnaire surveys, while more economical, typically achieve poorer response rates than interview surveys. We used data from a national volunteer cohort of young adult twins, who were scheduled for assessment by questionnaire in 1989 and by interview in 1996-2000, to identify predictors of questionnaire non-response. Out of a total of 8536 twins, 5058 completed the questionnaire survey (59% response rate), and 6255 completed a telephone interview survey conducted a decade later (73% response rate). Multinomial logit models were fitted to the interview data to identify socioeconomic, psychiatric and health behavior correlates of non-response in the earlier questionnaire survey. Male gender, education below University level, and being a dizygotic rather than monozygotic twin, all predicted reduced likelihood of participating in the questionnaire survey. Associations between questionnaire response status and psychiatric history and health behavior variables were modest, with history of alcohol dependence and childhood conduct disorder predicting decreased probability of returning a questionnaire, and history of smoking and heavy drinking more weakly associated with non-response. Body-mass index showed no association with questionnaire non-response. Despite a poor response rate to the self-report questionnaire survey, we found only limited sampling biases for most variables. While not appropriate for studies where socioeconomic variables are critical, it appears that survey by questionnaire, with questionnaire administration by telephone to non-responders, will represent a viable strategy for gene-mapping studies requiring that large numbers of relatives be screened.
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