Health surveys in the workplace: comparison of postal, email and World Wide Web methods

Occup Med (Lond). 1999 Nov;49(8):556-8. doi: 10.1093/occmed/49.8.556.


Health surveys in the workplace are an important part of epidemiology, needs assessment and health promotion. Since the workplace is changing rapidly with the use of computer networks, we examined the feasibility, validity and cost of health surveys using e-mail and the World Wide Web (WWW). Five hundred systematically sampled university staff in a convenience sample of 10 English universities were surveyed using either e-mail alone, e-mail plus a WWW form or postal questionnaire. Response rates, speed of response, validity and costs were examined. The postal survey obtained the best response rate: 72% as compared with 34% for e-mail alone and 19% for the WWW, but it was also the most expensive at 92p per reply, with 35p for e-mail, and 41p for the WWW. Most of the electronic responses were made within five days. In 1997, the increased response rate justified the higher cost of postal questionnaires. e-mail and WWW surveys are easy, quick and inexpensive to administer, and despite low response rates may be useful for pilot studies. The rapid changes in the spread and use of information technology means we have to keep reassessing the methods we use for health surveys in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Feasibility Studies
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Occupational Health*
  • Postal Service*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom