Community Sampling of Health Problem Occurrence

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Have you ever wondered what community sampling is?

Are you shaking your head? If you're like most people (and especially if you've struggled through difficult math courses you never had a use for later), just the thought of anything with a mathematical basis, particularly statistics, turns you off.

So your answer to this question is likely to be, "Of course not!"

But consider this: Math problems you struggled with weren't about you. A community sample is another matter: You have a reasonable chance of being part of one, especially if you have borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Community Sampling Is a Different Type of Research

You probably know that medical researchers often seek out people to study who've been identified as having certain characteristics, which may include specific diseases or disorders. An example would be a collection of randomly selected persons who are seeking treatment for a mental health disorder such as BPD. This is called a treatment sample.

This is the type of study typically done to assess the safety and effectiveness of new pharmaceutical medications. Maybe you or someone you know has taken part in this type of clinical study, also called a clinical trial.

Community sampling is different. How? In community sampling, the researchers take their study participants, their "sample," from the community in general. Not surprisingly, this is called a community sample. Their goal is to learn how many people in the sample have a certain condition, such as BPD.

  • Sometimes, as with other types of research studies, the results of one community sampling may be used to estimate the number of people in larger populations who have the disease or disorder.​
  • When BPD is estimated for larger populations, the result may be that many people who have BPD without knowing it eventually receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Community Sampling Is Also Researched Differently

Clinical studies like the ones done to test new medications are almost always done at medical research centers. The participants come to the researchers.

In contrast, the interviewers for community sampling contact one randomly selected person or household at a time. They go to them. The interviews may be done face to face, by telephone or postal mail, or on the Internet. The participants are interviewed once, whereas those taking part in medication-testing clinical trials are most often evaluated over weeks, months, or even years.

What Else Should I Know?

Researchers choose the type of study they want to do based on many criteria, particularly the specific ways the study findings may be used. For this reason, if you should find yourself looking at a study of, say, people with BPD, you should pay attention to whether the participants were drawn from a treatment or a community sample.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tomko RL, Trull TJ, Wood PK, Sher KJ. Characteristics of borderline personality disorder in a community sample: comorbidity, treatment utilization, and general functioning. J Pers Disord. 2014;28(5):734-50.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Clinical Trials: What Patients Need to Know.

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Inside Clinical Trials: Testing Medical Products in People.

  4. Messiah A, Castro G, Rodríguez de la vega P, Acuna JM. Random sample community-based health surveys: does the effort to reach participants matter? BMJ Open. 2014;4(12):e005791. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005791

Additional Reading
  • Battaglia P. Sampling for community health surveys. In Johnson TP (Ed.). Handbook of Health Survey Methods (2011). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.