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It's common practice for researchers to ask age questions in surveys, together with other demographic questions like gender and religion. Age survey questions are important, but only in the right context. If you include them when you do not need to, it can ruin your research process. 

So when do you need to ask age questions, and how should you classify age ranges or groups in your survey? At the end of this article, you'll be familiar with different methods of asking for survey respondents' ages and how to know when you do not need to ask age questions in research. 

Importance of Age Questions in Survey

1. Market Research

Age questions play an important role in market segmentation. Many times, age dictates the market's preferences, together with other demographic factors like gender and level of education. Age questions help you to align your product with the needs of your market. 

market research

People within the same age group share overlapping interests and think in similar ways. For example, teenagers and young adults may not be as excited about healthy eating as people in their 40s or 50s. At the same time, Teenagers may be super enthusiastic about platforms like TikTok, while individuals in their mid-30s and early 40s may lean more towards LinkedIn. 

All of this points to one thing: Age can be the most crucial factor determining whether your product fails or shatters the glass ceiling. Based on the responses to the age questions in your survey, you can modify your product to better appeal to your target market or create a new product altogether. 

2. Medical Research

In medical research, age questions help you narrow your systematic investigation to the right audience and gather valid data. It also helps the researcher categorize survey responses, and provides the proper context for data interpretation. 

For example, if you're conducting medical research on childbirth and pregnancy, the ideal age group that can provide helpful responses to your questions are women older than 18. You may also need to include a dichotomous question along the lines of, "have you ever been pregnant?", to filter responses further. 

3. Customer Demography

Age is an essential factor in customer demography. Combining age with other factors like employment history, location, level of education, and income level can help you to define your audience accurately and to create ideal personas for your product. 

Demographics

Sometimes, age can define your product messaging and how you communicate your brand to your target audience. For example, a brand that wants to appeal to teenagers will use "teenage lingo" and push the messaging via the channels that these people interact with. 

4. Customer Identification

This lays emphasis on the other points we have discussed. Asking the age question in your survey is a great way to map out your target market from the crowd. If your product appeals to different market subsets, age is an excellent way to categorize your potential customers so you can create unique messages to appeal to their needs. 

When to Ask the Age Questions in Surveys

Asking age questions in a survey takes you a step closer to fully understanding your target market. But this doesn't mean you should just slap the age question on every type of survey. 

Let's put it this way—age questions are two-edged swords; one wrong move, and you could be toast. The last thing you need is for survey respondents to feel like you're prying too much or trying to extract sensitive information from them. 

So how can you go about this? Let's go through a few tips to help you:

  1. Let respondents know why you're asking for their age. You can include this in your survey introduction to prepare their minds.
  2. Let respondents know how you intend to use the information. You don't have to go into details here: just paint a clear picture of how you'll run with their data. 
  3. Organize your survey into demographic sections.
  4. Unless it's necessary, don't ask for the exact age. Instead, use a multiple-choice question format with age ranges that respondents can choose from. 

There are no rules for asking age questions during data collection. Typically, you'll need to ask these questions in market surveys and demographic questionnaires. 

In the end, everything depends on you, so you need to define your research goals and objectives to know when to include age questions in your survey. If you cannot clearly state why you need to know how old your respondents are, then maybe there's no need to ask in the first place. 

Ways to Classify Age Range or Groups in Surveys 

1. By Generation

Based on generation, there are 5 different age groups, namely

Generations

  • The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945. 
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964.
  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980.
  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996.
  • Generation Z: Born 1997-2012.

Classifying age groups by generation is most appropriate for social media surveys. For example, Gen-Zers and millennials are more likely to be social media savvy than the baby boomers or the silent generation.  

2. By a Closed Age Group

In your demographic surveys or market research questionnaires, you can create helpful age categories within the range of 5 or 10. Instead of asking respondents to state their exact age, create different age categories in your survey, and they'll choose where they fall. It's easier to organize survey responses this way. 

Question Samples for Closed Age Groups in Surveys  

1. Choose your age group

  • 10–19
  • 20–29
  • 30–39

2. How old are you? 

  • 15–20
  • 21–25
  • 26–30

How to Ask for a Respondent's Age in Surveys 

1. Straight Method

The straight method involves asking survey respondents to input their dates of birth directly. Many people are not comfortable with filing in their exact date of birth or she in surveys, so if you're using this method, ensure you have a good reason for it. 

Date of birth

For example, if you're updating the bio-data of new students in your school, you'll need to have their exact date of birth for your official records. You can also use this age request method in tax return forms or medical surveys like a hospital admissions form or patient registration form. 

2. Age Group Method

This is the best method to use in research surveys like demographic questionnaires, product testing and market research surveys. In these contexts, you don't need to know the exact age of the respondents, you only need to know what age categories they fall into so you can segment and interpret your data accordingly. The age group method can also be used in educational research to complete bio-data questions. 

Age Group

This method involves creating specific age categories and placing ages within a range in these categories. For instance, you can create age categories like 1–10, 21–30, 5–9. As you would notice, these ranges are in 5s and 10s. 

3. Use Correlational Questions

A correlational question shows the relationship between two variables in a research context. This relationship can be positive or negative such that the presence of one thing connotes the presence of another or the presence of one thing connotes the absence of another thing. 

Correlational questions are more subtle ways of getting to know the age distribution of your survey respondents. Instead of asking them to choose their groups or input their dates of birth, you only need to ask a question about something that's tied to a specific date. Common correlational questions to help you discover the age distribution of your audience include: 

  • Who was the president when you were 5 years old?
  • Which famous person has the same year of birth as you? 
  • How old were you when J.F Kennedy died? 

As survey respondents answer these questions, you'd get a fair and almost accurate sense of how old they are. Let's say a participant's response to the second question is Barack Obama; all you have to do is confirm the former president's birth year to make an informed guess about the respondent's age.  

When Not to ask for Age in Surveys 

1. When you’re doing a private survey with selected group/class

If you're conducting a private survey with a predetermined group, you don't have to ask the age question. Chances are you already have a fair idea of the age range of the group members, especially if you were involved in their selection process. So, there's no reason to ask for this again unless you no longer have access to the data. 

2. When it has no effect on your research data

If knowing the ages of the survey participants will change little or nothing in your research process, then there's no need to ask for it in the first place. Your survey questions should only be questions that will lead to good responses for your research. For example, if you're conducting a formative assessment to know how well participants understand a specific subject, there's no need to ask for their ages in the survey.   

Conclusion 

Age is one of the most critical demographic questions in surveys. In market research, these questions help you to identify different age groups in your target market and to categorize them accordingly. Age questions can also be helpful in customer feedback surveys

As we've shown in this article, one of the best ways to ask age questions is to provide fixed age ranges like 18–23, 20–25, 10–19, and the like. You can use radio fields in the Formplus builder to ask age questions or date-time fields when you need to ask for the exact date of birth of survey respondents. 



  • Formplus Blog
  • on 7 min read

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