Respondent burden

Respondent burden definition:

Respondent burden (also known as response burden, response fatigue, and subject burden) is a relatively recent concern. Respondent burden is often defined as the effort required to answer a questionnaire. A factor that has been proposed to affect the respondent burden is questionnaire length, and this burden is manifested in, for example, response rate. Even though the respondent burden is frequently mentioned as a reason for abridging questionnaires, evidence to support this claim are however limited.




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Factors such as questionnaire length, the density of sampling, the cognitive load required completing the survey, and layout and interface of the reporting format have been suggested to affect the strain on the respondent.


Increased response burden has been proposed to result in lower response rates, reduced completion, and reduced data quality. It may be particularly problematic in demographic groups such as children or older people. A strong focus has been on questionnaire length, and, consequently, potential response burden is frequently a rationale for reducing the number of items in existing questionnaires (e.g., the short version of the Short-Form Health Survey) and is also driving the development of questionnaires with a minimum of items.


Lengthy questionnaires have been mentioned as a general obstacle in clinical practice and used as an argument for limiting the overall number of administrations of an instrument. Some studies have even proposed that a single question is preferable to reduce response burden. Techniques such as skip logic and item banking may offer reduced response burden because items may be more tailored to meet patients' response patterns compared to traditional paper and pencil forms.