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Using Texting to Improve Teen Health

Using Texting to Improve Teen Health A new study leverages teens’ relationships with cell phones and text messages as a method to enhance health literacy and improve health behaviors.

According to the Nielsen consumer research group, U.S. teens receive an average of 3,417 text messages per month or a whopping 114 texts per day. Teens also have notoriously have poor diets, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that high school students’ consumption of fruit and vegetables is, on average, 1.2 times per day (much lower than the recommended 5 a day).

Given these factors, researchers studied the use of text messages to inform teens about health behaviors.

Investigators studied 177 teens for a one-year period. They discovered that in order to inform and motivate teens, text messages should address the reality of today’s adolescent lifestyles.

Investigators explored teens’ preferences for message content, format, style (or message ”voice”), origin, and frequency and mode of message delivery.

From the pilot test of their healthy lifestyle text messages, researchers found that teens liked an active voice that referenced teens and recommended specific, achievable behaviors sent from nutrition professionals.

According to study’s lead author, Melanie Hingle, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., University of Arizona, “The current consensus is that intervention programs targeting adolescents to combat obesity have limited, short-lived success.

“The majority of traditional approaches employed to date have relied on expert-led fitness and nutrition education programs delivered within the school setting. New approaches are needed to effectively engage teens in age-appropriate, teen-centric, relevant activities that can be sustained beyond traditional health promotion settings.

“The ubiquity of mobile phone use among adolescents offers an engaging, youth-friendly avenue through which to promote healthy behaviors.”

Researchers believe the study confirms that mobile technology can be used to engage adolescents in ”conversations” about health using a familiar communication method – that is, in 160 characters or less.

Source: Elsevier

Teenager texting on his phone photo by shutterstock.

Using Texting to Improve Teen Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Using Texting to Improve Teen Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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