International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 451–459 | Cite as

Feasibility of using respondent-driven sampling to recruit participants in superdiverse neighbourhoods for a general health survey

  • Florence Samkange-ZeebEmail author
  • Ronja Foraita
  • Stefan Rach
  • Tilman Brand
Original Article



Respondent-driven sampling (RDS), a modified chain-referral system, has been proposed as a strategy for reaching ‘hidden’ populations. We applied RDS to assess its feasibility to recruit ‘hard-to-reach’ populations such as migrants and the unemployed in a general health survey and compared it to register-based sampling (RBS).


RDS was applied parallel to standard population RBS in two superdiverse neighbourhoods in Bremen, Germany. Prevalences of sample characteristics of interest were estimated in RDS Analyst using the successive sampling estimator. These were then compared between the samples.


Only 115 persons were recruited via RDS compared to 779 via RBS. The prevalence of (1) migrant background, (2) unemployment and (3) poverty risk was significantly higher in the RDS than in the RBS sample. The respective estimates were (1) 51.6 versus 32.5% (95% CIRDS 40.4–62.7), (2) 18.1 versus 7.5% (95% CIRDS 8.4–27.9) and (3) 55.0 versus 30.4% (95% CIRDS 41.3–68.7).


Although recruitment was difficult and the number of participants was small, RDS proved to be a feasible method for reaching migrants and other disadvantaged persons in our study.


Respondent-driven sampling Feasibility Superdiverse Hard-to-reach Migrants 



We would like to thank the Field Work Unit at the BIPS, all interviewers and other project staff as well as our cooperation partners in the two neighbourhoods for their support during the preparation and conduction of the study.


The UPWEB project was funded by NORFACE (Grant No. 462-14-091), and the respondent-driven sampling arm was financed through internal funding of the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology—BIPS.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Bremen ethics committee.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPSBremenGermany

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