How online social relationships help smokers quit tobacco
Analyses of how people use BecomeAnEX, Truth Initiative’s digital cessation program, are shedding light on the ways online health communities can help people quit smoking.
For example, online communities foster relationships among members that can play an important role in helping smokers quit, according to new research from the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Truth Initiative®.
Researchers found that smokers who became more socially connected on BecomeAnEX were significantly less likely to be smoking three months after they enrolled, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).
The ways in which former smokers use the site differ based on how recently they quit
Each month, thousands of BecomeAnEX members share information and offer each other support through the platform’s communication channels, including private messages, blogs, message boards and group discussions. Researchers analyzed social network data from these four channels and identified links between users’ connections and smoking abstinence.
“This is one of the first studies to look at the specific ways that users interact in an online social network, and how those online interactions are related to quitting smoking,” said Dr. Amanda Graham, director of Research Development at the Schroeder Institute. “By understanding how members use the site, we can identify the factors associated with positive outcomes, which could be harnessed to improve cessation rates.”
Additional research published in JMIR Research Protocols found that people who had just begun to quit smoking were more likely to engage with BecomeAnEX than those who had quit for longer than a week.
Researchers at the Schroeder Institute surveyed new BecomeAnEX users who self-identified as former smokers and found that more than half of the people surveyed started their quit attempt more than a week before registering for the site, and that those beginning their quit attempt in the last seven days engaged with the program more frequently.
Recent quitters visited the site more often, viewed more pages and spent more time on the site. They were also more likely to use the community feature, more than twice as likely to read community blog posts, and almost three times as likely to write a post. However, more established quitters were more likely to be abstinent a month after enrollment.
“The ways in which former smokers use the site differ based on how recently they quit,” said Sarah Cha, senior project manager with the Schroeder Institute. “Knowing this information at the time they join the site may help us to create more tailored treatment strategies based on their unique needs.”
Truth Initiative research has found that web-based interventions can be just as effective at helping smokers quit as face-to-face or telephone counseling, and are more effective than print materials.
Smokers who became more socially connected on BecomeAnEX were significantly less likely to be smoking three months after they enrolled
New BecomeAnEX users who began their quit attempt in the last seven days engaged with the program more frequently
Recent quitters were more than twice as likely to read community blog posts
Recent quitters were almost three times as likely to write a post