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Emotional risks to respondents in survey research

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-01-19, 00:00 authored by Susan M Labott, Timothy P Johnson, Michael Fendrich, Norah C Feeny
Some survey research has documented distress in respondents with pre-existing emotional vulnerabilities, suggesting the possibility of harm. In this study, respondents were interviewed about a personally distressing event; mood, stress, and emotional reactions were assessed. Two days later, respondents participated in interventions to either enhance or alleviate the effects of the initial interview. Results indicated that distressing interviews increased stress and negative mood, although no adverse events occurred. Between the interviews, moods returned to baseline. Respondents who again discussed a distressing event reported moods more negative than those who discussed a neutral or a positive event. This study provides evidence that, among nonvulnerable survey respondents, interviews on distressing topics can result in negative moods and stress, but they do not harm respondents.


M01 RR000080/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States R21 NR010595/NR/NINR NIH HHS/United States R21NR010595/NR/NINR NIH HHS/United States


Publisher Statement

Published as Labott, Susan M., et al. "Emotional Risks to Respondents in Survey Research: Some Empirical Evidence." Journal of empirical research on human research ethics: JERHRE 8.4 (2013): 53. © 2013 BY JOAN SIEBER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


University of California Press


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