Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Trace Kershaw


Introduction: With the ubiquity of mobile phones, mobile health (mHealth) has the ability to transform healthcare specifically in regard to substance use interventions. Current mHealth interventions targeting substance use are limited as they require self-monitoring and user input.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to determine if text message content can predict substance use attitudes and behaviors. The aims were three-fold: (1) To assess the prevalence of discussion of substance use in text messages (2) To evaluate the relationship between text message content and substance use attitudes and behaviors; and (3) To examine social network structure using texting interactions related to substance use.

Methods: Text messages from 91 males ages 18-25 were monitored over a period of six months and examined for content related to substance use. Self-report data indicating substance use attitudes and behaviors were used to determine relationships between text message content, social network structure, and substance use attitudes and behaviors.

Results: In total, 23,173 text messages were analyzed with 166 text messages including alcohol related terms and 195 text messages including drug related terms. Individuals who sent text messages related to alcohol use were more likely to have problematic alcohol use and positive attitudes toward alcohol use, and individuals who sent text messages related to marijuana use reported higher frequency of marijuana use and more positive attitudes toward marijuana use. Individuals with problem alcohol use were in positions that controlled the network structure whereas individuals with problem marijuana use were in positions that had less control over network structure.

Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that monitoring text message content and social network structure among emerging adult males can potentially predict substance use attitudes and behaviors. This may allow for development of real-time interventions aimed at predicting and reducing problematic substance use.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access