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OBJECTIVES: This review explored the literature on the use of social media in recruiting young people, aged 13-18 years, to mental health research. It aimed to identify barriers and facilitators to recruitment and strategies to improve participation in future research.

DESIGN: Scoping review.

DATA SOURCES: Articles published between January 2011 and February 2023 were searched for on PubMed, Scopus, Medline (via EBSCOhost) and Cochrane Library databases.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Studies that outlined social media as a recruitment method and recruited participants aged 13-18 years.

DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS: Data was extracted by two reviewers independently and cross-checked by a third reviewer. Data on study design, aims, participants, recruitment methods and findings related specifically to social media as a recruitment tool were collected.

RESULTS: 24 journal articles met the inclusion criteria. Studies were predominantly surveys (n=13) conducted in the USA (n=16) recruiting via Facebook (n=16) and/or Instagram (n=14). Only nine of the included articles provided a summary of success and reviewed the efficacy of social media recruitment for young people in mental health research. Type of advertisement, the language used, time of day and the use of keywords were all found to be factors that may influence the success of recruitment through social media; however, as these are based on findings from a small number of studies, such potential influences require further investigation.

CONCLUSION: Social media recruitment can be a successful method for recruiting young people to mental health research. Further research is needed into recruiting socioeconomically marginalised groups using this method, as well as the effectiveness of new social media platforms.

REGISTRATION: Open Science Framework Registry (https://osf.io/mak75/).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere075290
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2023


  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Mental Health
  • Social Media
  • Patient Participation
  • Depression & mood disorders


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