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If you worry about spending hours on Facebook, then relax – it could be good for your health. The social networking site may help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Colorado found that sexual health advice on the site encouraged condom use among teenagers, decreasing the chance of them spreading STDs.

They recruited 1,578 young adults between 18 and 24 for the study. Some were asked to ‘Like’ and receive news from a sexual-health Facebook page called Just/Us, which shared articles about condom use and sexually transmitted infection testing. Another group signed up to a Facebook page called 18-24 News, which provided general news items targeted to the age group.

The idea was to see whether receiving updates from a sexual health-based page – rather than a general news page – made the young adults more likely to wear condoms. When the researchers conducted a survey two months later, they found 68% of people signed up to the sexual advice site had used condoms during their last sexual encounter, compared to just 56% in the news group.

Furthermore, the proportion of sexual acts where a condom had been used was 63% in the first group, but only 57% in the news group.

The study is published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Unfortunately, the effects of the sexual health information appeared to wane over time. After six months there was no difference in condom use between the two groups.

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