Recruiting and retaining youth and young adults: challenges and opportunities in survey research for tobacco control

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Abstract

Introduction

Evaluation studies of population-based tobacco control interventions often rely on large-scale survey data from numerous respondents across many geographic areas to provide evidence of their effectiveness. Significant challenges for survey research have emerged with the evolving communications landscape, particularly for surveying hard-to-reach populations such as youth and young adults. This study combines the comprehensive coverage of an address-based sampling (ABS) frame with the timeliness of online data collection to develop a nationally representative longitudinal cohort of young people aged 15-21.

Methods

We constructed an ABS frame, partially supplemented with auxiliary data, to recruit this hard-to-reach sample. Branded and tested mail-based recruitment materials were designed to bring respondents online for screening, consent and surveying. Once enrolled, respondents completed online surveys every 6 months via computer, tablet or smartphone. Numerous strategies were utilized to enhance retention and representativeness

Results

Results detail sample performance, representativeness and retention rates as well as device utilization trends for survey completion among youth and young adult respondents. Panel development efforts resulted in a large, nationally representative sample with high retention rates.

Conclusions

This study is among the first to employ this hybrid ABS-to-online methodology to recruit and retain youth and young adults in a probability-based online cohort panel. The approach is particularly valuable for conducting research among younger populations as it capitalizes on their increasing access to and comfort with digital communication. We discuss challenges and opportunities of panel recruitment and retention methods in an effort to provide valuable information for tobacco control researchers seeking to obtain representative, population-based samples of youth and young adults in the U.S. as well as across the globe.

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