When national drug surveys “take too long”: An examination of who is at risk for survey fatigue

BACKGROUND: National surveys are a leading method for estimating prevalence of substance use and other health-related behaviors. However, when a participant perceives a survey as too time-consuming, there is a higher probability of lower quality responses.

METHODS: We examined data from the 2018 to 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative sample of non-institutionalized individuals ages >/=12 in the U.S. (N = 112,184). Participants were asked about 13 drug classes on this hour-long survey, and those reporting use of a drug were asked follow-up questions. We estimated prevalence and correlates of participants stating that the survey took too long to complete.

RESULTS: An estimated 9.4 % (95 % CI: 8.9-9.8) felt the survey took too long. The more drugs used in the past year, the higher the odds of reporting that the survey took too long. Those reporting use of 8-13 drug classes in particular were at higher odds (aOR = 2.91, 95 % CI: 1.44-5.87). More missing responses was associated with higher odds-particularly when >/=5 drug-related questions were skipped (aOR = 3.26, 95 % CI: 2.26-4.71). Participants who did not speak any English (aOR = 1.74, 95 % CI: 1.31-2.32), have difficulty concentrating (aOR = 1.38, 95 % CI: 1.23-1.54), and/or had trouble understanding the interview (aOR = 3.99, 95 % CI: 3.51-4.53) were at higher odds, as were those who were older and non-white. Higher education and family income was associated with lower odds.

CONCLUSION: We identified subgroups of individuals most likely to experience fatigue on a national drug survey. Researchers should recognize that long surveys with extensive follow-up questions may lead to respondent fatigue.

Full citation:
Le A, Han BH, Palamar JJ (2021).
When national drug surveys “take too long”: An examination of who is at risk for survey fatigue
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 225, 108769. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108769. PMCID: PMC8282613.