If you have a good number of younger adult patients, you likely already know that their cell phone travels with them, wherever they go. If you are a parent to a younger adult, you’ve also likely experienced the frustration of trying to communicate with your child, who may seem far more interested in their phone screen than having a conversation with you. Now studies are showing that text messaging communication in health and social care from doctors can encourage health interventions in patients.
According to one market researcher, a young adult (ages 18-24) will send an average of 133 text messages per week and will send and receive approximately 128 texts per day. Approximately half of those younger adults feel that the text interactions they have with friends and family are just as meaningful to them, if not more so, as phone calls.1
As much as you may think that all the time that younger adults spend on their phones is detrimental to their wellbeing, there has been some recent interesting data showing how taking advantage of the benefits of communications technology can actually induce positive changes in health behavior. One excellent example involves using text messages as part of a program to help younger adults stop using e-cigarettes, sometimes known as vaping.
E-cigarettes can come in a variety of shapes, including those that look like pipes, cigars, or cigarettes. Some can even appear similar to hookahs, which are popular within Middle Eastern communities.2 Nevertheless, they all produce an aerosol for the user to inhale. This aerosol contains nicotine and other additives, as well as flavorings, which are often fruit- or candy-inspired, to appeal to younger adults and teens. These flavorings, along with the claim that aerosolized nicotine is less harmful than nicotine smoke, are two of the main reasons for the appeal of e-cigarettes to teens and younger adults.2
Use of e-cigarettes among younger adults has now surpassed use among older adults. Furthermore, younger adults’ use of e-cigarettes within the previous 30 days (13.6% in 2013 to 2014) is now similar to that of high school students (13.4% in 2014).2 In fact, e-cigarettes have proven themselves to be more popular than conventional cigarettes among younger adults. Between 2013-14, 9.6% of younger adults reported exclusive use of e-cigarettes within the previous 30 days, as compared to only 6.1% reporting exclusive use of conventional cigarettes during the same time period.2
Text messaging communication in health and social care impacting vaping
A recent study from JAMA Internal Medicine reported on a clinical trial that examined the effectiveness of text messaging in helping younger adults (ages 18 to 24) stop using e-cigarettes.3 The study recruited 2,5,88 younger adults who had used e-cigarettes within the previous 30 days, expressed interest in quitting within the next 30 days, and had a cell phone with an active text messaging plan. All study participants were randomized to receive either just monthly assessments via text or an automated text program specifically designed as a health intervention tool to help stop the use of e-cigarettes.3
At the end of seven months, approximately 25% of study participants who received the text-based intervention program had abstained from vaping, while only 18% of those who only received assessment texts refrained from using e-cigarettes.3 These numbers are particularly encouraging, given that the evaluation period was during the height of the current pandemic, in which heightened stress and anxiety levels would be more likely to drive study subjects back toward e-cigarettes as a form of self-medication.
The researchers noted: “This randomized clinical trial demonstrated the effectiveness of a tailored, interactive text message intervention in promoting vaping cessation among YAs [young adults]. Text messaging is a scalable and cost-efficient approach to delivering vaping cessation treatment on a population basis. These results establish a benchmark of effectiveness for other vaping cessation programs and begin to fill an important gap in understanding how to help young people quit e-cigarettes.”3
These results should encourage you to open a dialogue with your younger adult and adolescent patients about their possible use of e-cigarettes, and if they have considered quitting. If your patients are spending a significant amount of time reading text messages on their phone, some of those messages may actually be beneficial by encouraging a healthier lifestyle – whether it’s vaping or issues that can be helped by chiropractic care.
- Rafferty I. 50 texting statistics that can quench everyone’s curiosity, even mine. Posted 9/17/2017. Medium.com
- S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016.
- Graham AL, Amato MS, Cha S, et al. Effectiveness of a vaping cessation text message program among young adult e-cigarette users: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2021;181(7):923-930.