Social networks influence flu shot decision among college students

May 14, 2012 By Laura Kennedy

College students' social networks influence their beliefs regarding the safety of influenza vaccines and decisions about vaccination, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The most influential people seem to be spouses, parents and friends, said study author Sean Richey, Ph.D., a at Georgia State University. “We show that a path to influencing the college students’ beliefs about vaccinations may be through their social networks,” said Richey. “So, public health officials may try to target the students’ parents with information, for example, in addition to the students themselves.”

face elevated risk for seasonal flu because they often live in close quarters where infectious disease can easily spread, noted Richey. Yet, during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, 30 percent of the surveyed students viewed the as unsafe, and only 10 percent chose to be vaccinated.

For the online survey, students were asked to identify four people with whom they discuss health matters. Students who believed their parents, spouses or friends were supportive of vaccination reported higher beliefs in vaccine safety and that they were more likely to intend to get the flu vaccine.

“Vaccine decisions [are] a behavior that we have very little data on, and we did not know that social networks would influence those decisions,” observed Thomas Valente, Ph.D., an expert on social networks at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

The study is promising, he added, because social networks and their perceived support for vaccines are “amenable to change.”

The study is based on responses from more than 1,000 undergraduates at a large public university in Georgia. Demographics of the participants closely match those of the university’s diverse student body.

Richey notes that the survey was only offered to students in an introductory political science class and thus may not be representative of students in general. Also, he said, “We cannot observe the flow of vaccine information within discussion networks,” making it hard to determine who influences who. Richey and his colleagues are planning to conduct a more detailed study later this year.

“Trials that test network manipulations to accelerate vaccine adoption are also needed,” added Valente.

Explore further: Mutation in strains make flu a moving target

More information: Brendan Nyhan, et al. (2012). The Role of Social Networks in Influenza Vaccine Attitudes and Intentions Among College Students in the Southeastern United States, Journal of Adolescent Health, doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.014

Related Stories

Mutation in strains make flu a moving target

August 4, 2011
Each year 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to flu-related complications.

Family support motivates Mexican-Americans to adopt healthy habits

January 6, 2012
Encouragement from family members helps motivate Mexican-American adults to eat more fruits and vegetables and to engage in regular exercise, according to a new study in the current issue of American Journal of Health Promotion.  ...

Vaccinations aren't just for kids, expert says

August 19, 2011
A new school year means more than new clothes, new books and a new grade level – it also means new shots for millions of public school children.

Recommended for you

Older drivers adapt their thinking to improve road hazard detection

September 26, 2017
A recent study finds that older drivers showed adaptive responses according to the amount of traffic in a driving scene when identifying road hazards. Although younger drivers are faster and more accurate at identifying driving ...

80 percent of activity tracker users stick with the devices for at least six months

September 26, 2017
Use of activity trackers, such as wearable devices and smartphone apps, is on the rise, and a new study shows that 80 percent of users stuck with the device for at least six months. Though the gadgets may help motivate users ...

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

September 25, 2017
New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

New tool demonstrates high cost of lack of sleep in the workplace

September 25, 2017
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden costs that affect employers across America. Seventy percent of Americans admit that they routinely get insufficient sleep, and 30 percent of U.S. workers and 44 percent of night ...

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

September 25, 2017
Researchers in France found that rats who ate a junk food diet during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred the taste of fat straight after weaning. While a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' ...

Exercise can make cells healthier, promoting longer life, study finds

September 22, 2017
Whether it's running, walking, cycling, swimming or rowing, it's been well-known since ancient times that doing some form of aerobic exercise is essential to good health and well-being. You can lose weight, sleep better, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.