Nobody home? Issues of respondent recruitment in areas of deprivation
Although there is there is a shared assumption among the research community that response rates are lower in areas of deprivation, few studies have reported on the difficulties of recruiting disadvantaged respondents for the purposes of research. Where these issues are raised the focus is usually on why particular respondent groups may be more or less disposed to participate in research. This paper draws on two separate research projects on smoking which drew their respondents from overlapping areas of disadvantage in Edinburgh. Although informed by different research paradigms and employing different strategies of respondent recruitment, the two studies obtained a similar response rate. Although respectable, the response rate (approximately 60%) was achieved only at the expense of an enormous under-anticipated effort on behalf of the respective research teams. The greatest problem associated with respondent recruitment was in both cases linked to the high level of ineligible addresses and non-contacts, rather than with refusal to participate. The paper highlights the crucial importance of respondent recruitment strategies and reflects on the implications of recent data protection legislation for the requirements of research ethical committees. Neither of the studies discussed in the paper used 'opt-in' recruitment strategies, which are becoming more popular with ethics committees following the Data Protection Act. However, it is extremely likely that such strategies would have had a detrimental affect on the response rates achieved. This is problematic not least because a major aim of public health research targeting areas of deprivation is to provide marginalized or socially disadvantaged individuals with a voice.
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