The effect of survey administration mode on youth mental health measures: Social desirability bias and sensitive questions

Debra J. Rickwood, Cassandra Coleman-Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Aim: Research on trends in youth mental health is used to inform government policy and service funding decisions. It often uses interviewer-administered surveys, which may be affected by mode effects related to social desirability bias. This study sought to determine the impact of survey administration mode on mental health measures, comparing mode effects for sensitive mental health measures (psychological distress and wellbeing) and non-sensitive (physical activity) measures. Methods: Data were from two large national community samples of young Australians aged 12–25 years conducted in 2020 (N = 6238) and 2022 (N = 4122), which used both interviewer-administered and self-report modes of data collection. Results: Results showed participants reported lower psychological distress and higher wellbeing in the interviewer-assisted compared with the self-report mode. No mode effects were found for the non-sensitive physical activity measures. No interaction between mode and gender was found, but an age group by mode interaction revealed that those in the 18–21 and 22–25-year age groups were more strongly affected than younger adolescents. Conclusions: These findings suggest underestimates of mental health issues from interview survey formats, particularly for young adults. The results show how even a weak mode effect can have a large impact on mental health prevalence indicators. Researchers and policy makers need to be aware of the impact social desirability bias can have on mental health measures and consider taking steps to mitigate this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20131
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalHeliyon
Volume9
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2023

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of survey administration mode on youth mental health measures: Social desirability bias and sensitive questions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this