Predictors of "Liking" Three Types of Health and Fitness-Related Content on Social Media: A Cross-Sectional Study

About this resource

Background: Adolescence and young adulthood are key periods for developing norms related to health behaviors and body image, and social media can influence these norms. Social media is saturated with content related to dieting, fitness, and health. Health and fitness?related social media content has received significant media attention for often containing objectifying and inaccurate health messages. Limited research has identified problematic features of such content, including stigmatizing language around weight, portraying guilt-related messages regarding food, and praising thinness. However, no research has identified who is ?liking? or ?following? (ie, consuming) such content. Objective: This exploratory study aimed to identify demographics, mental health, and substance use?related behaviors that predicted consuming 3 types of health and fitness?related social media content?weight loss/fitness motivation pages (ie, ?fitspiration?), detox/cleanse pages, and diet/fitness plan pages?among young social media users. Methods: Participants (N=1001; age: median 21.06, IQR 17.64-24.64; female: 723/1001, 72.23%) completed a cross-sectional 112-question online survey aimed at social media users aged between 15-29 years residing in Victoria, Australia. Logistic regression was used to determine which characteristics predicted consuming the 3 types of health and fitness?related social media content. Results: A total of 378 (37.76%) participants reported consuming at least 1 of the 3 types of health and fitness?related social media content: 308 (30.77%) fitspiration pages, 145 (14.49%) detox pages, and 235 (23.48%) diet/fitness plan pages. Of the health and fitness?related social media content consumers, 85.7% (324/378) identified as female and 44.8% (324/723) of all female participants consumed at least 1 type of health and fitness?related social media content. Predictors of consuming at least one type of health and fitness?related social media content in univariable analysis included female gender (OR 3.5, 95% CI 2.5-4.9, P<.001), being aged 15-17 years (OR 3.0, 95% CI 2.2-4.0, P<.001), residing outside a major city (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.4-2.9, P<.001), having no post?high school education (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.7-2.9, P<.001), being born in Australia (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.2-3.2, P=.006), having a self-reported eating disorder (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.5-3.9, P<.001), being a victim of bullying (OR 1.7, CI 1.3-2.3, P<.001), misusing detox/laxative teas or diet pills (OR 4.6, 95% CI 2.8-7.6, P<.001), never using illegal drugs (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2-2.0, P=.001), and not engaging in risky single occasion drinking on a weekly basis (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.3-3.0, P=.003). Conclusions: Consumers of health and fitness?related social media content were predominantly teenaged girls. There is a need to ensure that this social media content portrays responsible health messages and to research further the role of fitspiration pages, detox pages, and diet/fitness plan pages in influencing body image and health behaviors.

AuthorElise R Carrotte, Alyce M Vella and Megan SC Lim
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Year2015

See also

Weight pressures in sport: Examining the factor structure and incremental validity of the weight pressures in sport - Females

Due to pressures within the sport environment, such as from coaches, teammates, uniforms and judges, female athletes may develop unhealthy eating practices to lose weight or change their body size/shape to become more competitive and meet societal and sport-related physique ideals.

Read more

Issue 55 | Theory and Practice: Screening and Assessment Tools for Eating Disorders

Welcome to this edition of the NEDC e-Bulletin, where we delve into the NEDC’s recent and upcoming collaborations with local PHNs and then examine different practical screening and assessment tools to help you detect the possible presence of an eating disorder. 

Read more

Issue 24 | Fitness, Healthy Eating and Sports Performance

Welcome to the twenty-fourth edition of the NEDC e-Bulletin.

Read more

Practical Responses to Eating Disorders: A Guide to Implementing Responses to Eating Disorders in General Health Services

Implementation translates evidence into practice.

Read more

Help us improve!

Give us feedback!

We will continue throughout 2019 to update and improve the NEDC website and welcome any feedback you may have on the site.

Provide feedback