261511 Online Peer Networks: Examining the relationship between composition of young adults' online networks and their AOD behaviors

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Deborah Gordon-Messer, MPH , Prevention Research Center of Michigan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Jose A. Bauermeister, MPH, PhD , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Jorge Soler, MPH , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Marc Zimmerman, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Youth who interact in networks with higher concentrations of alcohol and other drug use (AOD) are more likely to use drugs than those with less AOD density in their social networks. Given that young adults' (YA) communicate frequently with peers online, it is vital to examine whether peer online network characteristics (e.g., network structure and AOD acceptability) are related to YA's AOD use.

Using a web-version of Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS), we recruited a sample of YA (ages 18 to 24; N=2,845). Via a web-survey, participants answered questions regarding their AOD use (e.g., alcohol, marijuana and other drugs in past 30 days) and listed the top 5 individuals with whom they communicate most frequently online (“alters”; N=10,747). We characterized YA's peer online networks based on alter relationships (density) and alters' age, race/ethnicity, sex, and AOD acceptability. Using multivariate regression, we explored the relationship between YA's alcohol and marijuana use in the past 30 days and their online network characteristics.

Over half of participants (62%) reported alcohol use in the past month, whereas 20% used marijuana. On average, the proportion of YA's peer online networks was 50% female, 73% White, and had a mean age of 20.7 years (SD = 2.7). Preliminary multivariate analyses suggest a relationship between YA's AOD use and their online network structures.

We discuss our findings and highlight the importance of promoting online network-based AOD prevention programs for YAs in the United States, including whether tailoring prevention messages based on YA's online network composition is warranted.

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

Learning Objectives:
(1) Identify the relationship between online network composition, online norms of AOD use and prevalence rates among YA. (2) Evaluate the potential of online, network-based prevention programs addressing AOD among YAs in the US. (3) Discuss how AOD use is contextualized by online peer network characteristics.

Keywords: Youth, Network Analysis

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an Assistant Professor in Health Behavior and Health Education.
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.