Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 330–333 | Cite as

The use of refusal postcards in recruiting older adults

  • Carol J. Verboncoeur
  • Anita L. Stewart
  • Abby C. King
  • Stephanie Rush
  • Barbara Y. McLellan
  • Kris Mills
Brief Report


This article examines whether a refusal postcard makes recruitment more efficient or instead reduces response rates to a telephone survey of older adults. Medicare health maintenance organization (HMO) members were randomly sampled in sequential phases. All samples received an initial contact letter from a HMO geriatrician. A refusal postcard was included in the first sample (N=178); however, the remaining six samples did not receive this postcard (N=1,003). An overall refusal rate of 32% was observed when postcards were included versus a 14% rate of refusal when postcards were excluded (p<.001). When potential respondents were reached by telephone, refusal rates were similar (9% versus 10%). Despite the higher refusal rate among the sample receiving the refusal postcard, no significant differences in demographics, health, and health behaviors were observed between the two final sample groups completing the survey. We conclude that refusal postcards greatly increase the refusal rates without offering any prescreening advantage in the recruitment process of older adults and could increase the costs of recruitment for a telephone survey. Furthermore, use of a refusal postcard precludes individuals from making fully informed decisions about participating in research.


Telephone Survey Health Maintenance Organization Health Promotion Program Potential Respondent Refusal Rate 
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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol J. Verboncoeur
    • 1
  • Anita L. Stewart
    • 1
  • Abby C. King
    • 2
  • Stephanie Rush
    • 1
  • Barbara Y. McLellan
    • 1
  • Kris Mills
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Health & AgingUniversity of CaliforniaSan Francisco
  2. 2.Stanford School of MedicineStanford UniveristyStanfordUSA

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