How Facebook could prevent you from catching an STD
Young people who 'Liked' a sexual health advice site were more likely to use condoms than those who didn't
Facebook 'a good way to help prevent sexually transmitted infections'
14:50 GMT, 10 October 2012
Young people who received sexual advice from Facebook were more likely to use condoms
If you worry about spending hours on Facebook, then relax – it could be good for your health.
The social networking site may help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Colorado found that sexual health advice on the site encouraged condom use among teenagers, decreasing the chance of them spreading STDs.
They recruited 1,578 young adults between 18 and 24 for the study. Some were asked to ‘Like’ and receive news from a sexual-health Facebook page called Just/Us, which shared articles about condom use and sexually transmitted infection testing.
Another group signed up to a Facebook page called 18-24 News, which provided general news items targeted to the age group.
The idea was to see whether receiving updates from a sexual health-based page – rather than a general news page – made the young adults more likely to wear condoms.
When the researchers conducted a survey two months later, they found 68 per cent of people signed up to the sexual advice site had used condoms during their last sexual encounter, compared to just 56 per cent in the news group.
Furthermore, the proportion of sexual acts where a condom had been used was 63 per cent in the first group, but only 57 per cent in the news group.
The study is published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Unfortunately, the effects of the sexual health information appeared to wane over time.
After six months there was no difference in condom use between the two groups.
Facebook could be a valuable tool in promoting safe sex as more than 73 per cent of young people have a social media account
Lead researcher Sheana Bull said the use of social media such as Facebook to influence sexual behaviour was novel.
‘It is a first step in considering how to reach the overwhelming numbers of youth online, and how to maximise approaches to technology-based interventions,’ said Professor Bull, of the Colorado School of Public Health.
She added that many young people don’t always have access to regular health care, yet 73 per cent use social media.
'Therefore it may provide a viable alternative to promote safe sex,’ she said.
Young people under 25 experience the highest rates of STDs in the UK, according to figures from the Health Protection Agency.
The peak age for an infection in women is between 19 and 20 years, and in men between 20 and 23 years.
Of all 16-19 year olds diagnosed with
an STI, at least 11 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men will
become re-infected within a year.