Article Text

other Versions

Download PDFPDF
Recruiting and retaining youth and young adults: challenges and opportunities in survey research for tobacco control
  1. Jennifer Cantrell1,2,
  2. Elizabeth C Hair1,2,
  3. Alexandria Smith1,
  4. Morgane Bennett1,
  5. Jessica Miller Rath1,2,
  6. Randall K Thomas3,
  7. Mansour Fahimi3,
  8. J Michael Dennis4,
  9. Donna Vallone1,5
  1. 1 Evaluation and Science Research, Truth Initiative, Washington DC, USA
  2. 2 Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
  3. 3 GfK New York, New York, NY, USA
  4. 4 National Opinion Research Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  5. 5 Global Institute of Public Health, New York University, New York, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jennifer Cantrell, Evaluation and Science Research, Truth Initiative, 900 G Street, NW, Fourth Floor, Washington, DC 20001, Columbia, USA; jcantrell{at}


Introduction Evaluation studies of population-based tobacco control interventions often rely on large-scale survey data from numerous respondents across many geographic areas to provide evidence of their effectiveness. Significant challenges for survey research have emerged with the evolving communications landscape, particularly for surveying hard-to-reach populations such as youth and young adults. This study combines the comprehensive coverage of an address-based sampling (ABS) frame with the timeliness of online data collection to develop a nationally representative longitudinal cohort of young people aged 15-21.

Methods We constructed an ABS frame, partially supplemented with auxiliary data, to recruit this hard-to-reach sample. Branded and tested mail-based recruitment materials were designed to bring respondents online for screening, consent and surveying. Once enrolled, respondents completed online surveys every 6 months via computer, tablet or smartphone. Numerous strategies were utilized to enhance retention and representativeness

Results Results detail sample performance, representativeness and retention rates as well as device utilization trends for survey completion among youth and young adult respondents. Panel development efforts resulted in a large, nationally representative sample with high retention rates.

Conclusions This study is among the first to employ this hybrid ABS-to-online methodology to recruit and retain youth and young adults in a probability-based online cohort panel. The approach is particularly valuable for conducting research among younger populations as it capitalizes on their increasing access to and comfort with digital communication. We discuss challenges and opportunities of panel recruitment and retention methods in an effort to provide valuable information for tobacco control researchers seeking to obtain representative, population-based samples of youth and young adults in the U.S. as well as across the globe.

  • Prevention
  • Priority/special populations
  • Media
  • Surveillance and Monitoring
  • Social Marketing

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors JC conceptualised and wrote the paper. DV, ECH, JMR and JMD contributed to the conceptualisation and DV contributed to writing and revisions. AS and MB contributed to writing and revisions. JMD, RKT and MF contributed to the study design, analyses and revisions.

  • Funding This study was funded by Truth Initiative.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Chesapeake IRB.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Several typos have been corrected throughout the text.