Cover: Response Formats and Satisfaction Surveys for Elders

Response Formats and Satisfaction Surveys for Elders

Published in: Gerontologist, v. 44, no. 3, June 2004, p. 358-367

Posted on 2004

by Nicholas G. Castle, John Engberg

PURPOSE: A factor common to the results of many satisfaction surveys of elders is a lack of response variability. Increasing response variability may be useful if satisfaction surveys of elders are to be productively used in the future. In this paper, the authors first examine elders' preferences between five response formats and then examine the response variability of these five commonly used formats. DESIGN AND METHODS: Satisfaction, demographic, and Short-Form 36 Health Survey data were self-reported by patients in four outpatient surgery centers during 1998 and 1999. The authors used six different survey instruments randomly given to 3,122 elders. Five instruments varied in response format (5-item Likert format, 5-item satisfaction format, 5-item valuation format, 4-item Chernoff faces, and 10-item visual analogue format). The sixth survey used all five different response sets, and then it asked for the respondents' preferences among the different response sets. RESULTS: A total of 2,450 questionnaires were examined (response rate of 78.5%). The response format using four Chernoff faces was liked the least, with only 5% of the respondents preferring this format. The 10-item visual analogue format (10VAF) was liked the most, with 39% of the respondents preferring this format. In addition, 10% more elders thought this format was easier to use than the second-place choice (i.e., 32% vs. 22%). The coefficient of variation for the 10VAF was also higher than those in identical domains using the other response formats. This would seem to indicate that the 10VAF is less prone to a ceiling effect than the other response formats. IMPLICATIONS: Our results show that elders have a preference for some response formats, and from the choices they gave them a 10VAF was preferred. The 10VAF also had more response variability then the other formats the authors tested.

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.