October 11, 2012 — Public health messages on social media websites could help increase condom use, at least temporarily, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Forbes reports (DiSalvo, Forbes, 10/9).
University of Colorado researchers recruited 1,578 individuals ages 18 through 24 for the study. Participants were assigned to either an intervention group or a control group.
The intervention group included 942 participants who received news from Just/Us, a Facebook community seeking to promote sexual health. The control group included 636 participants who received general news believed to be of interest to people in their age group (Medical News Today, 10/10).
The study found that after two months, 68% of participants in the intervention group said they had used a condom during their latest sexual encounter, compared with 56% of participants in the control group.
In addition, the proportion of sex acts that included condom use among participants in the intervention group was 63%, compared with 57% among participants in the control group (Forbes, 10/9). However, after six months, the study found no difference in condom use between the two groups.
Sheana Bull -- professor at the Colorado School of Public Health and lead researcher of the study -- said that many young people do not have access to regular health care but that 73% of them use social media. "Therefore, [social media] may provide a viable alternative to promote safe sex," she said (Hodgekiss, London Daily Mail, 10/10).
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