Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The role of social media in communicating sexual health information

Megan Lim, Rachel Sacks-Davis and Professor Margaret Hellard have co-authored a paper with a researcher from the Burnet Institute identifying the role of social media in sexual health promotion for youth.

Social media is a developing platform which has expanded from the role of connecting individuals to exploring the field of education and how it can be used alongside technology. Particularly in the adolescent demographic, social media is playing a crucial role in the spectrum of knowledge and innovation.

The authors of this study identified that the emerging reach and popularity of social media can lead to its role in the promotion of sexual health, safe sex practices and raising awareness around issues such as sexually transmitted infections. The intention of the study was to identify how comfortable young individuals felt accessing information regarding sexual health via social media networks.

620 individuals from 16-29 years of age were questioned regarding their social media habits such as how much time they spent accessing networks. They were also asked about their comfort level of accessing information on sexual health from different channels. A majority of individuals indicated being comfortable with receiving information on sexual health via websites (85% of participants), a doctor (81% of participants), school (73% of participants) and mainstream media networks (67% of participants). 

A reduced number of individuals were comfortable accessing information via social media channels. 52% of participants’ accessed data via Facebook, 51% of participants’ accessed information through applications, 44% of participants utilised text messages and 36% of individuals accessed information via Twitter.

Previous studies have determined that health promotion programs deployed via social media have been effective in the past, however, this is a contrast to younger individuals not being comfortable directly accessing this information via such networks. Therefore, the researchers conclude the need for further research to be taken within the field to determine possible strategies to utilise the popularity of social media in a health promotion setting.

Read the study in full here.

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