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

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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

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