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Facebook may be opportunity for inexpensive, targeted alcohol-prevention messages, journal report says

Release Date: December 19, 2013
Contact: Lisa Hildebrand - 608.442.3765 lisa.hildebrand@wismed.org

MADISON – A high prevalence of Facebook content related to the Mifflin Street Block Party prior to the event warrants concern and represents potential opportunity, according to research published in the current issue of WMJ (vol. 112, no. 6). After studying 66 first-year students’ Facebook references to the Mifflin party, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison identified advertisements on the social networking site as one option for alcohol-prevention messages.

The advertisements could be used by universities to create alcohol-prevention messages and target them to students displaying related content, the researchers suggest. “It is possible that Facebook may provide novel opportunities to identify students planning to attend such events toward providing anticipatory guidance,” the authors wrote.

Study participants were selected from ongoing research involving full-time, first-year students for fall 2011 at UW-Madison who were 18 or 19 years old at the time. Of the 66 study participants, 18 displayed Mifflin-related content prior to the event, 11 displayed related content on the day of the block party and 19 displayed content after Mifflin. References to Mifflin were displayed on Facebook in a variety of multimedia formats.

“Participants displayed references before, on the day of and following the event,” the authors wrote. “These references were associated with a high likelihood of drinking on the day of the event, and increased references were associated with a higher number of drinks reported.”

According to telephone interviews with the study participants, 40 of the 66 students – all of whom were younger than the legal drinking age in Wisconsin – reported alcohol use on the day of the Mifflin Street Block Party. The mean number of drinks by study participants that day was 8.8.

“One concern regarding Mifflin displays on Facebook pre-event is that these messages could raise awareness of this event and encourage other students to attend,” the authors said. However, Facebook “may provide a way to deliver targeted, inexpensive messages in a setting in which college students are discussing and making plans for Mifflin.”

Published by the Wisconsin Medical Society, WMJ is devoted to the interests of the medical profession and health care in the Midwest. This peer-reviewed publication, which is available in print and electronic format, is one of the few state medical society-sponsored medical journals that publish a large amount of original research and academic content.