The Relationships Between Social Media and Human Papillomavirus Awareness and Knowledge: Cross-sectional Study

Soojung Jo, Keenan A. Pituch, Nancy Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV can infect both females and males, and it can cause many cancers, including anal, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers. HPV vaccination rates are lower than vaccination rates within other national vaccination programs, despite its importance. Research literature indicates that people obtain health-related information from internet sources and social media; however, the association between such health-seeking behavior on social media and HPV-related behaviors has not been consistently demonstrated in the literature. Objective: This study aims to examine the association between social media usage and HPV knowledge and HPV awareness. Methods: This study analyzed public health data collected through the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) conducted by the US National Cancer Institute. The analysis used data collected in 2020; in total, 2948 responses were included in the analysis. Six HPV-related questions were used to identify HPV awareness, HPV vaccine awareness, and HPV knowledge about HPV-related cancers. Four questions about social media usage and one question about online health information–seeking behavior were used to analyze the associations between social media usage and HPV-related behaviors. Initially, six logistic regressions were conducted using replicate weights. Based on the results, significant factors were included in a second set of regression analyses that also included demographic variables. Results: About half of the respondents were aware of HPV (68.40%), the HPV vaccine (64.04%), and the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer (48.00%). However, fewer respondents were knowledgeable about the relationships between HPV and penile cancer (19.18%), anal cancer (18.33%), and oral cancer (19.86%). Although social media usage is associated with HPV awareness, HPV vaccine awareness, and knowledge of cervical cancer, these associations were not significant after adjusting for demographic variables. Those less likely to report HPV awareness and knowledge included older participants, males, those with a household income of less than US $20,000, those with a formal education equal to or less than high school, or those who resided in a household where adults are not fluent in English. Conclusions: After adjusting for demographic variables, social media use was not related to HPV knowledge and awareness, and survey respondents were generally not aware that HPV can lead to specific types of cancer, other than cervical cancer. These results suggest that perhaps a lack of high-quality information on social media may impede HPV awareness and knowledge. Efforts to educate the public about HPV via social media might be improved by using techniques like storytelling or infographics, especially targeting vulnerable populations, such as older participants, males, those with low incomes, those with less formal education, or those who reside in the United States but are not fluent in English.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere37274
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • health promotion
  • human papillomavirus
  • papillomavirus infections
  • public reporting of health care data
  • social media
  • vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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