The early response rate in the first MONICA-Catalonia population survey was 52.7% and the final response rate was 73.8%. The intensity of recruitment effort in this survey led to a considerable increase in response rate (20%), with the extra cost per late respondent being relatively low ($13.9). Added recruitment effort was most effective in the youngest age group, 25-34 years. It was also more effective among women living in urban areas than among those from rural areas. In men, early respondents had a higher proportion of smokers than late respondents, and in women, early respondents had higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels and were more aware of their history of high blood pressure than late respondents. Non-respondents were less educated than respondents in both sexes, and this was more marked in women. No differences were found in the proportion of smokers between respondents and non-respondents. Respondents were more aware of their high blood pressure history than non-respondents. The recruitment costs and distribution of non-response components are given.