Using behaviour change theory to inform an innovative digital recruitment strategy in a mental health research setting

Michael Musker, Camille Short, Julio Licinio, Ma Li Wong, Niranjan Bidargaddi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Recruitment in mental health research is challenging, as some disorders such as depression or schizophrenia may involve vulnerable participants that lack motivation as part of their illness. A mental health diagnosis can be stigmatising, so privacy and access to hospital-based patient cohorts is carefully controlled. Our team describe a pragmatic portal recruitment process for facilitating timely recruitment into multiple research studies focusing on mental health. Three factors were analysed; evaluating the success and impact of this novel recruitment process; identification of patterns in recruitment to better target participants; and provision of metrics of the different media formats engaged. A web-based recruitment portal was developed by the research team in collaboration with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) Consumer & Carer Research Advisory Group. A comprehensive marketing campaign was then undertaken to direct participants towards the portal. Recruitment insights from the dates and times of registration across a two-year period is provided. In total, 933 potential participants registered with the recruitment portal across a two-year period at a cost of approximately $10,000. The advertisement campaign linked to the portal page enabled 506 participants to register in just one week. The area of research was self-selected by the potential participants, then eligibility was followed up with telephone and face to face interviews. Of the total 933 people who registered 706 (76%) expressed an interest in the target clinical depression study, 119 (13%) opted to be clinical controls, and the remainder chose one of the alternative studies. 240 (26%) of those who registered were excluded through telephone interviews because they fell outside of the strict eligibility criterion. We learnt that 77% (n = 723/933) of participants were recruited within seven days of promotional events, providing an interesting pattern of recruitment that may assist future recruitment design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • behaviour change
  • digital recruitment strategy
  • mental health research
  • mental illness


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