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Open Access Research article

Mobile phones are a viable option for surveying young Australian women: a comparison of two telephone survey methods

Bette Liu1*, Julia ML Brotherton2, David Shellard3, Basil Donovan14, Marion Saville2 and John M Kaldor1

Author Affiliations

1 The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2 Victorian Cytology Service, Melbourne, Australia

3 The Hunter Valley Research Foundation, Newcastle, Australia

4 Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney Hospital, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:159  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-159

Published: 24 November 2011



Households with fixed-line telephones have decreased while mobile (cell) phone ownership has increased. We therefore sought to examine the feasibility of recruiting young women for a national health survey through random digit dialling mobile phones.


Two samples of women aged 18 to 39 years were surveyed by random digit dialling fixed and mobile numbers. We compared participation rates and responses to a questionnaire between women surveyed by each contact method.


After dialling 5,390 fixed-lines and 3,697 mobile numbers, 140 and 128 women were recruited respectively. Among women contacted and found to be eligible, participation rates were 74% for fixed-lines and 88% for mobiles. Taking into account calls to numbers where eligibility was unknown (e.g. unanswered calls) the estimated response rates were 54% and 45% respectively. Of women contacted by fixed-line, 97% reported having a mobile while 61% of those contacted by mobile reported having a fixed-line at home. After adjusting for age, there were no significant differences between mobile-only and fixed-line responders with respect to education, residence, and various health behaviours; however compared to those with fixed-lines, mobile-only women were more likely to identify as Indigenous (OR 4.99, 95%CI 1.52-16.34) and less likely to live at home with their parents (OR 0.09, 95%CI 0.03-0.29).


Random digit dialling mobile phones to conduct a health survey in young Australian women is feasible, gives a comparable response rate and a more representative sample than dialling fixed-lines only. Telephone surveys of young women should include mobile dialling.

Cellular phone; mobile phone; telephone surveys; survey methods; HPV vaccine