A comparison of mail and telephone interview strategies for mental health surveys

Can J Psychiatry. 1993 Oct;38(8):525-33. doi: 10.1177/070674379303800801.


The high cost of mental health surveys of the general population has sparked interest in less costly research methods. Two low-cost mental health survey strategies (mail and telephone) were compared in terms of cost, response rate and quality of data obtained. A total of 1,074 persons agreed to participate in the study as a sample, one-half by telephone and the other half by mail. They completed the Diagnostic Interview Schedule Self-Administered, a questionnaire designed to be self-administered, which was used to assess specific mental disorders and to evaluate risk factors. In addition, 239 respondents who were selected according to the presence or absence of specific diagnoses were reinterviewed face-to-face using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule as an external criterion. The telephone method yielded a better response rate (15% higher) and better control over answers (for example, less missing data). The mail strategy was less expensive and appeared to yield data of slightly better quality, particularly for respondents suffering from anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Cost Control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / etiology
  • Postal Service / economics*
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone / economics*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*