Background: Recruitment and retention of adolescent research participants presents unique challenges and considerations when conducting epidemiological studies.
Purpose: To describe the use of the social networking website in the re-recruitment and tracking of adolescent girls into a follow-up study of the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls (TAAG) at the University of Maryland field site.
Methods: 730 girls were recruited as 8th graders into TAAG. Re-recruitment efforts were conducted when they were 11th graders (TAAG 2). Traditional methods, including mailings and school visits, were conducted. A TAAG 2 Facebook site was created to search for girls not found through traditional recruitment methods. Chi-square and t-tests were conducted to identify differences in characteristics between those found and "friended" through Facebook and through traditional recruitment methods.
Results: There were 175 girls we were unable to locate using traditional recruitment methods. Of these, 78 were found on Facebook, 68 responded to our friend request, and 43 girls (6% of the girls previously recruited) participated in the study. Demographic data were similar for those who friended us on Facebook and traditional methods. 8th grade body mass index and percent body fat were lower for those recruited from Facebook (p=0.03 and 0.04, respectively). Number of daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity tended to be lower among the TAAG 2 Facebook friends (19 ± 11 vs 21 ± 11, p=0.06).
Conclusions: Loss to follow-up was minimized by contacting potential participants through Facebook. Social networking websites are a promising method to recruit adolescents.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.