European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 103–111 | Cite as

Feasibility of Using Web-based Questionnaires in Large Population-based Epidemiological Studies

  • Alexandra EkmanEmail author
  • Paul W. Dickman
  • Åsa Klint
  • Elisabete Weiderpass
  • Jan-Eric Litton


To date, few large web-based epidemiological studies have been performed in a population-based setting. Sweden has optimal prerequisites for web-based studies with more than 80% of the general population having access to the Internet. Our aim was to investigate (I) response rates in an epidemiological study using primarily the web as a tool for data collection and (II) whether socio-demographic patterns vary between responders to a web and a paper questionnaire. In 2003, we invited 47,859 women to complete a web questionnaire. Two reminders were sent to non-responders; in the first a random sample received a paper questionnaire and in the second the majority received a paper questionnaire. All other non-responders received web questionnaires. Differences in response rates between responders to web and paper questionnaires with regard to socio-demographic and other variables were analyzed, and estimates of the bias introduced by these differences were estimated. In total, 41% of the women responded to the web questionnaire and 31% to the paper questionnaire (overall response rate 72%). The web-, paper- and non-responders respectively did not differ significantly in age, physical activity levels, and body mass index. Women answering web or paper questionnaires had a higher level of education and income and a lower level of smoking than non-responders. The bias associated with collecting information using web questionnaires was not greater than that caused by paper questionnaires. We conclude that web-based questionnaires are a feasible tool for data collection in large population based epidemiological studies in Sweden.

Key words

Cohort studies Epidemiology Internet Questionnaire 



Body Mass Index


Confidence Interval


Hormone Replacement Therapy


Oral Contraceptive


Portable Document Format


Relative Risk


Uniform Resource Locator


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra Ekman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul W. Dickman
    • 1
  • Åsa Klint
    • 1
  • Elisabete Weiderpass
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan-Eric Litton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  2. 2.The Cancer Registry of NorwayOsloNorway

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