238687 Role of online communities in young adults' (YA) alcohol and other drug use (AOD): Examining the relationship between AOD and permissive norms within YA's online networks

Monday, October 31, 2011

Josť Arturo Bauermeister, MPH, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Michelle Johns, MPH , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, ANn Arbor, MI
Marc Zimmerman, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Background: Youth who interact in networks with higher concentrations of AOD use are more likely to use drugs than those with less AOD density in their social networks. With the advent of online network technologies, YAs are now able to communicate more frequently without concern of proximity and/or synchronicity. Online interactions with peers may reinforce or escalate AOD use due to more frequent and continuous exposure to AOD promotive norms; however, the influence of YA's virtual networks on AOD remains untested.

Methods: Using an adapted web-version of Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS), we recruited a sample of U.S. YA (ages 18 to 24; N=3,400). As part of the web-survey, participants answered questions regarding their AOD use (e.g., alcohol & marijuana in past 30 days), online community norms regarding AOD use, peer substance use, online and offline peer support, and sociodemographic characteristics. Using multivariate regression, we explored the relationship between the constructs above and YA's alcohol and marijuana use in the past 30 days.

Results: Alcohol use was related to permissive alcohol norms within their online networks, peer AOD use, and higher density of alcohol use within their online networks. Marijuana use was associated with the density of marijuana use within online networks and peer AOD use, and negatively related to YA's perceptions that acknowledging drugs online could have damaging consequences. Online and offline support were not related to AOD use.

Conclusions: We discuss our findings and highlight the importance of promoting online network-based AOD prevention programs for YAs in the United States.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the relationship between online norms of AOD use and prevalence rates among YA. Evaluate the potential of online, network-based prevention programs addressing AOD among YAs in the US.

Keywords: Youth, Drugs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Bauermeister is Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) in the UM School of Public Health. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. Bauermeister completed his MPH and PhD in Public Health from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the HBHE faculty, Dr. Bauermeister was a NIH postdoctoral fellow in the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry and Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at New York University. Dr. Bauermeister oversees the Sexuality & Health Research Lab (SexLab) at the School of Public Health. His primary research interests focus on sexuality and health, and interpersonal prevention and health promotion strategies for high-risk adolescents and young adults. He is Principal Investigator of several projects examining HIV/AIDS risk among young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Dr. Bauermeister is also Co-Investigator of the Virtual Network Study and the Flint Adolescent Study, two studies examining youth well-being.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.