BACKGROUND: Recruiting young people for health and intervention studies by traditional methods has become increasingly challenging. The widespread access to the internet may offer new strategies for online recruitment.
OBJECTIVE: This study aims to assess the feasibility of online recruitment for a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of Mindhelper, an online national youth mental health promotion service. The target group was young Danes aged 15-25 in need of mental health promotion.
METHODS: Advertisements for recruitment were set up on Facebook and Instagram. Browser history was collected for a subsample of participants. We compared basic characteristics of participants who completed the baseline survey and those who did not, as well as of participants who completed the follow-up survey and those who were lost to follow-up. The significance of these differences was tested with the Pearson chi-square test.
RESULTS: A total of 560 Danes aged 15-25 were recruited within 1 month (ie, had completed the baseline survey). Among these participants, 356 (63.6%) were at risk of developing depression or stress. The average advertisement price per participant completing the baseline questionnaire was 31 DKK (approximately €4 [US $4.2]). The follow-up survey was sent to 545 participants, of whom 318 (58.3%) completed the survey. No statistically significant differences were observed in baseline characteristics of participants who completed the follow-up and those who were lost to follow-up in terms of gender (P=.45), age (P=.35), occupation (P=.17), cohabitation (P=.90), mental well-being (P=.26), mental illness (P=.44; impact of the illness, P=.05), or use of the internet when having a hard time (P=.92).
CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that it is feasible to recruit young Danes online for a large-scale randomized controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of Mindhelper.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04650906; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04650906.