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Peer-to-Peer Support on Facebook for Smoking Cessation Among Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness

Funding Source

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Center for Technology and Behavioral Health Pilot Core

Project Period


Principal Investigator

John A. Naslund, MPH

Other Project Staff

Kelly A. Aschbrenner, PhD; Mary F. Brunette, MD; Emily A. Scherer, PhD; Jesse Dallery, PhD; Stephen J. Bartels, MD, MS; Lisa A. Marsch, PhD

Project Summary

Over 50% of people with serious mental illness, including schizophrenia spectrum or mood disorders, smoke cigarettes compared to about 20% of people in the general population. Elevated smoking rates are a leading contributor to the dramatically reduced life expectancy observed among people with serious mental illness. Young adulthood, ages 18 to 30, is a critical window to target smoking behaviors, as young adults smoke more often, smoke more heavily, frequently show an interest to quit, and have a greater likelihood of avoiding serious long-term health consequences by quitting early.

With nearly 90% of young adults actively using Facebook and research showing that young adults with serious mental illness are as active on social media as young adults from the general population, Facebook may be an ideal platform for promoting motivation to quit smoking among this at-risk group. Research also shows that popular social media serve as important venues for young people with serious mental illness to challenge stigma, to share health information, and to support and motivate each other. The objective of this study is to develop a Facebook intervention aimed at stimulating online peer interaction among young adults with serious mental illness to promote motivation to quit smoking.

This project will address two primary aims. First, to develop and refine smoking cessation content for a Facebook intervention designed to promote motivation to quit smoking among young adults with serious mental illness. Second, to determine if the Facebook intervention is associated with change in motivation to quit smoking, and to explore if this change in motivation relates to exposure to intervention content and/or peer interactions among young adults with serious mental illness. This project will inform the use of Facebook for delivering scalable interventions that leverage online peer networks for smoking cessation among young adults with serious mental illness.