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Abstract

Background: To document social media usage for the retrieval of health information among college students; and to understand the beliefs, risk perceptions and behavioral intentions among participants who retrieved CDC influenza information via social media.

Methods: We conducted an online survey to a convenience sample of students at a university in Southeastern United States during Spring 2015. The survey was self-administered and every matriculating student received an electronic invitation to participate at least once.

Results: A total of 930 students completed the online survey. Most participants (n=905, 97.3%) reported that they had used a social networking site in the previous 12 months. However, only one-third (n=317, 34.1%) reported that they used social networking sites to read CDC health information or messages. Nearly one-fifth of participants (n=172, 18.5%) reported reading CDC influenza information during the 2014-15 influenza season. Among the subset of readers of CDC influenza information during the 2014-15 influenza season (N=153), 77 (50.99%) reported that it was likely they would get the influenza vaccine in the next 12 months. Women reported stronger risk perceptions and behavioral intentions than men. Blacks/African Americans reported more negative influenza-related beliefs and weaker risk perceptions compared to Whites.

Conclusions: While social media penetration is high among university students in Southeastern US, only a minority of survey participants retrieved CDC influenza information via social media. Among these individuals, about half reported that they intended to vaccinate against influenza. Further research is needed to enhance CDC social media penetration among college students.

Keywords: Cross-sectional studies, health communication, health education, social media, surveys and questionnaires.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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