Late response and item nonresponse in the Finbalt Health Monitor survey

Eur J Public Health. 2002 Jun;12(2):117-23. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/12.2.117.


Background: The Finbalt Health Monitor is a collaborative system for monitoring the health-related behaviour, practices and lifestyles in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. This system is based on nationally representative samples and self-administered mailed questionnaires. In comparing the results of national surveys, the awareness of the direction and socioeconomic patterning of the response bias is essential.

Methods: The data were gathered from the cross-sectional surveys conducted in 1998 from Estonia (n = 1362), Finland (n = 3504), Latvia (n = 2322) and Lithuania (n = 1874). An analysis was made of the prevalence of late response, completeness of information obtained from respondents and the magnitude of response bias on the prevalence estimates of health behaviour indicators.

Results: The response rates were comparatively high: 68% in Estonia, 70% in Finland, 77% in Latvia and 62% in Lithuania. Late response was weakly related to age, education or place of residence. The total proportion of missing information was below 10% and the sociodemographic patterning for this missing information was similar in all countries. Thus, older and less-educated respondents had more missing information on their questionnaires. Response bias of the prevalence estimates was minimal when it was calculated by using information obtained from late respondents.

Conclusions: The level of nonresponse and missing information was comparable in different countries, not information on health behaviour. Therefore special efforts are needed to design a questionnaire form which appears equally relevant to all respondent groups. The follow-up mailings were an effective way to increase the total response rate, but it was unlikely that they provided an effective way to reach the 'hard core' nonrespondents.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Estonia
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance