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BMJ Open. 2012; 2(5): e001181.
Published online 2012 September 4. doi:  10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001181
PMCID: PMC3437560

Effect of stamped reply envelopes and timing of newsletter delivery on response rates of mail survey: a randomised controlled trial in a prospective cohort study

Abstract

Objective

To examine the effects of stamped reply envelope and the timing of newsletter distribution.

Design

A randomised controlled trial in a prospective cohort study with a 2×2 factorial design of two interventions.

Setting

The Japan Nurses’ Health Study (JNHS), a prospective cohort study for women's health.

Participants

The present study included 6938 women who were part of the first-year entry cohort for the fifth wave of the biannual follow-up survey of the JNHS.

Intervention

The participants were randomly allocated into four groups; Group-1 (business-reply, newsletter with initial mailing), Group-2 (business-reply, newsletter with reminder), Group-3 (stamped envelopes, newsletter with initial mailing) and Group-4 (stamped envelopes, newsletter with reminder). The thank-you and reminder letters were mailed out at the end of the sixth week. This study was censored at the end of 12 weeks.

Main outcome measures

Main outcome measures were cumulative response at the end of 6 and 12 weeks after mailing out the questionnaire.

Results

The cumulative response at 12 weeks were 58.3% for Group-1, 54.1% for Group-2, 60.5% for Group-3 and 56.7% for Group-4 (p=0.001). The odds of the response was higher for stamped envelopes than for business-reply envelopes (OR (95% CI)=1.10(1.00 to 1.21)). The odds was higher for newsletter delivery with initial mailing than for with reminder (1.18(1.07 to 1.29)). The response in first 6 weeks for stamped envelope was significantly higher than for business-reply envelope (p=0.047). Although the response in 6 weeks for women received the newsletter with initial mailing was lower than for women who did not, the proportions did not differ significantly (p=0.291).

Conclusions

The style of return envelope affected response rates of mail survey. The results of this study suggest that practices of provision of the additional information, should be handled individually in advance, as a separate event from sending follow-up questionnaire or reminder letters.

Keywords: EPIDEMIOLOGY, PUBLIC HEALTH, STATISTICS & RESEARCH METHODS, HEALTH ECONOMICS, SERVICES ADMINISTRATION & MANAGEMENT

Articles from BMJ Open are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group