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Open Access Research article

Inclusion of mobile phone numbers into an ongoing population health survey in New South Wales, Australia: design, methods, call outcomes, costs and sample representativeness

Margo L Barr12*, Jason J van Ritten1, David G Steel2 and Sarah V Thackway1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health, 73 Miller Street, North Sydney, Australia

2 Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2012, 12:177  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-177

Published: 22 November 2012

Abstract

Background

In Australia telephone surveys have been the method of choice for ongoing jurisdictional population health surveys. Although it was estimated in 2011 that nearly 20% of the Australian population were mobile-only phone users, the inclusion of mobile phone numbers into these existing landline population health surveys has not occurred. This paper describes the methods used for the inclusion of mobile phone numbers into an existing ongoing landline random digit dialling (RDD) health survey in an Australian state, the New South Wales Population Health Survey (NSWPHS). This paper also compares the call outcomes, costs and the representativeness of the resultant sample to that of the previous landline sample.

Methods

After examining several mobile phone pilot studies conducted in Australia and possible sample designs (screening dual-frame and overlapping dual-frame), mobile phone numbers were included into the NSWPHS using an overlapping dual-frame design. Data collection was consistent, where possible, with the previous years’ landline RDD phone surveys and between frames. Survey operational data for the frames were compared and combined. Demographic information from the interview data for mobile-only phone users, both, and total were compared to the landline frame using χ2 tests. Demographic information for each frame, landline and the mobile-only (equivalent to a screening dual frame design), and the frames combined (with appropriate overlap adjustment) were compared to the NSW demographic profile from the 2011 census using χ2 tests.

Results

In the first quarter of 2012, 3395 interviews were completed with 2171 respondents (63.9%) from the landline frame (17.6% landline only) and 1224 (36.1%) from the mobile frame (25.8% mobile only). Overall combined response, contact and cooperation rates were 33.1%, 65.1% and 72.2% respectively. As expected from previous research, the demographic profile of the mobile-only phone respondents differed most (more that were young, males, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, overseas born and single) compared to the landline frame responders. The profile of respondents from the two frames combined, with overlap adjustment, was most similar to the latest New South Wales (NSW) population profile.

Conclusions

The inclusion of the mobile phone numbers, through an overlapping dual-frame design, did not impact negatively on response rates or data collection, and although costing more the design was still cost-effective because of the additional interviews that were conducted with young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people who were born overseas resulting in a more representative overall sample.

Keywords:
Sample survey; Mobile phone; Sampling frame