A high percentage of adolescents suffer from mental health problems, and many health-risk behaviours, such as excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, use of drugs, and having unsafe sex, are acquired during adolescence.
This study evaluated the effect of E-health4Uth and E-health4Uth and consultation on well-being (ie, mental health status and health-related quality of life) and health behaviours (ie, alcohol and drug use, smoking, safe sex). It included a control group where no intervention was delivered.
Two interventions were implemented at 12 secondary schools. Adolescents in the E-health4Uth group completed a self-report questionnaire to assess health-risk behaviour and well-being with respect to the following topics: alcohol consumption, drug use, smoking, sexual behaviour, bullying, mental health status, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and unpleasant sexual experiences. They then received web-based tailored messages, based on their responses, focused on their health behaviours and well-being. Adolescents in the E-health4Uth and consultation group received the same tailored messages, but were subsequently referred to a school nurse for a consultation if they were at risk of mental health problems.
A further follow-up questionnaire was completed after 4-months. The study looked at differences in health behaviour and well-being between the intervention groups and the control group at follow-up. Subsequently, it was explored whether demographics moderated the effects.
Compared to the control intervention, the E-health4Uth intervention, as a standalone intervention, showed minor positive results in health-related quality of life and condom use during intercourse among adolescents of Dutch ethnicity not replicated in the E-health4Uth and consultation group. The E-health4Uth and consultation intervention showed minor positive results in the mental health status of adolescents but a negative effect on drug use among boys. In the subgroup of adolescents who were at risk of mental health problems at baseline (and referred for a consultation with the nurse), the E-health4Uth and consultation group showed minor to moderate positive results in mental health status and health-related quality of life at follow-up compared to adolescents in the control group who were at risk of mental health problems at baseline.
The study cautions that although it is promising that positive effects were found in the E-health4Uth group, only a small number of outcome measures were statistically significant (ie, health-related quality of life and condom use during intercourse), the effects were small, and the effects on condom use were only found among adolescents of Dutch ethnicity. Furthermore, because the E-health4Uth and consultation group received the same messages as the E-health4Uth group plus an additional consultation for the adolescents at risk of mental health problems, one would expect that the effects on condom use and health-related quality of life would have also been present in the E-health4Uth and consultation group. Although these effects pointed in the same direction, they were not significant in the E-health4Uth and consultation group. Therefore, the effects found in the E-health4Uth group have to be interpreted with caution.
Full details and findings of the study can be read here.
Effectiveness of a Web-Based Tailored Intervention (E-health4Uth) and Consultation to Promote Adolescents’ Health: Randomized Controlled Trial
Rienke Bannink, MSc; Suzanne Broeren, PhD; Evelien Joosten-van Zwanenburg, MSc; Els van As; Petra van de Looij-Jansen, PhD; Hein Raat, MD, PhD