Friday, October 12, 2007

Health Risk Behaviors on MySpace

MySpace It's not very often I can write a post which is suitable for both Microbiologybytes and Science of the Invisible, but this topic is.
MySpace is a popular social networking site where users create individual profiles. A group from the University of Washington examined publicly available MySpace profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds and determined the prevalence of personal risk behavior descriptions and identifiable information. They looked at 142 publicly available MySpace profiles (so not a particularly big study) from the class of 2008 MySpace group. 47% contained indications of risk behavior information: 21% described sexual activity; 25% alcohol use; 9% cigarette use; and 6% drug use.

So are these results surprising?

Not to me. Considering this is a small sample of a self-selecting group who have public MySpace profiles, I'm slightly surprised that the percentages of risk behavior are not higher. Of course this study is flawed in lots of ways, but perhaps the most interesting sentence in the paper is:
Social networking sites may provide a new venue for identification, assessment, and interventions to prevent or reduce health risks.
Watch out teenagers, the health police are after you!

What Are Adolescents Showing the World About Their Health Risk Behaviors on MySpace?
Medscape General Medicine 2007 9: 9 (requires free registration)

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