October 11, 2012
A new study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that the social networking site, Facebook, may help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The study, conducted by University of Colorado researchers, recruited 1,578 young adults ages 18 to 24 and divided them into two groups. The first group was asked to "Like" and receive news from a sexual-health Facebook page called Just/Us, which shared articles about condom use and STD testing. The other group followed a Facebook page called 18-24 News, which provided general news items targeted to young adults.
A survey conducted two months later found that 68 percent of those signed up for the sexual advice site had used condoms during their last sexual encounter, while only 56 percent of those signed up for the general news site had used a condom during their last sexual encounter. No difference in condom use between the two groups was found after six months, however.
Lead researcher Sheana Bull, professor at the Colorado School of Public Health, explained that the study is "a first step in considering how to reach the overwhelming numbers of youth online." She believes that such studies will assist in "maximize[ing] approaches to technology-based interventions."