Recruitment and Retention of Young Adult Veteran Drinkers Using Facebook

Published in: PLoS ONE, 12(3): e0172972. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172972

Posted on RAND.org on April 07, 2017

by Eric R. Pedersen, Diana Naranjo, Grant N. Marshall

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The objective of this study was to describe the feasibility of using Facebook as a platform to recruit and retain young adult veteran drinkers into an online-alcohol use intervention study. Facebook's wide accessibility and popularity among the age group that comprises the majority of veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan make it a compelling resource through which research can extend its reach to this otherwise hard-to-reach group. We developed a series of Facebook advertisement campaigns to reach veteran drinkers not specifically searching for alcohol treatment. In doing so, we recruited 793 valid veteran participants in approximately two weeks for an advertising cost of $4.53 per obtained participant. The study sample consisted primarily of male veterans, between 19 and 34 years of age, who were drinking at moderate to heavy levels. Although about half of the sample reported mental health comorbidity, few had received any mental health or substance use treatment in the past year. Facebook appears to be a valuable mechanism through which to recruit young veterans with unmet behavioral health needs, although more specific efforts may be needed to engage certain types of veterans after initial study enrollment.

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