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Objective: To assess the effect of the colors of the envelope and ink on the response rate to a postal questionnaire in a study screening for undiagnosed parkinsonism in people aged 65 years and over in the community. Study Design and Setting: A total of 2,524 people aged 65 years and over from five general practices in Aberdeen were randomized to receive a questionnaire about the symptoms of parkinsonism printed in either colored (green) or black ink, and sent out in either a brown or white envelope. Results: The overall response rate was 63.5%. There was no significant interaction between envelope and ink color. The use of green ink compared to black significantly increased the response rate from 61.4% to 65.7% (OR 1.20, 95% confidence interval 1.02, 1.41). There was no overall effect of envelope color on response rate (62.3% brown and 64.8% white, OR 0.90, 95% confidence interval 0.76, 1.06) but there was significant heterogeneity between the general practices. When this general practice-envelope interaction was accounted for, brown envelopes had a significantly lower response rate than white ones (OR 0.49). Conclusion: This study, along with existing evidence, has shown that the use of certain ink colors in postal questionnaires is likely to increase response rates relative to black ink. The effect of envelope color was inconsistent both within this study and between previous studies. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Clinical Epidemiology

Publication Date





1326 - 1330