Determining the impact of text messaging for sexual health promotion to young people

Sex Transm Dis. 2011 Apr;38(4):247-52. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e3181f68d7b.


Background: The use of new technologies, such as mobile phones and internet, has increased dramatically in recent years. Text messages offer a novel method of sexual health promotion to young people who are the greatest users of new technology and are also at high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Methods: In January 2008, young people aged between 16 and 29 years were recruited from a music festival in Melbourne, Australia. They completed a short survey and were asked to provide their mobile phone numbers. Participants received fortnightly short messaging service (SMS) relating to sexual health for 4 months, and then completed an online follow-up survey. Survey data were weighted to account for those lost to follow-up. McNemar's test was used to compare changes in survey responses.

Results: A total of 1771 participants were included in analysis as they were sexually active and provided a valid mobile phone number at baseline. In all, 18% (319/1771) withdrew from receiving the SMS during the broadcast period and 40% (587/1452) completed the follow-up survey. The majority reported on the follow-up survey that they found the SMS entertaining (80%), informative (68%), and they showed the SMS to others (73%). Weighted analyses found a significant increase in knowledge (P < 0.01) and STI testing (P < 0.05) over time in both males and females.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that SMS appear to be a feasible, popular, and effective method of sexual health promotion to young people with a relatively low withdrawal rate, positive feedback, and an observed improvement in sexual health knowledge and STI testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Lost to Follow-Up
  • Male
  • Sex Education / methods*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Text Messaging*
  • Young Adult