The internet has become a key tool in health research and is increasingly used for data collection via email and web-surveys. Whilst the demographics of those with and without access to the Internet in the UK are regularly reported, the health behaviours of those who choose to take part in web-based surveys, compared to the wider population, are not known.Methods
We compared the health behaviours of those responding to a web-based health and lifestyle survey advertised on regional TV and radio news with regional results from a large national health and lifestyle survey—the Health Survey for England 2003.Results
After exclusion of duplicates, 1116 individuals responded to the survey and provided information on age and sex as well as a postcode in the Government Office for the North East region. Those responding to the web-survey were younger and lived in less deprived areas than the regional population. After weighting survey responses for age and deprivation, respondents to the survey reported higher mean BMI, greater fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as differing patterns of physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking, than regional respondents to the Health Survey for England.Conclusions
Conducting a web-based health and lifestyle survey advertised on regional news media was fast, cheap and relatively easy. Given the potential benefits of web-based surveys, further work is justified exploring who responds to web-based health and lifestyle surveys and whether or not more representative samples can be obtained.