My Topics

23 August 2012

Facebook + Text Messaging = Healthy Students

Keywords: health, intervention, media, technology, experiment,

Many young adults are overweight. Some claim that this is the result of too much computer use. However, according to a study in Obesity, computers can also be used to beat weight problems. Social networking and texting are extremely popular among young adults and, therefore, might be successful means to tackle obesity. This study investigated whether a health intervention through Facebook and texting can have positive effects on youngsters’ weight. This proved to be the case. 

Take aways

  • Digital media can be a successful tool for health interventions.
  • A combination of several digital media technologies (e.g. Facebook and texting) will have the strongest effect.
  • Personalized messages and feedback are necessary to stimulate young adults to continue healthy behavior.

Study information

  • The question?

    How effective are Facebook and text messaging in delivering a health intervention aimed at obese students?

  • Who?

    52 18- to 29-year-olds (mean age = 20.47; 86,5% female, 13,5% male). All participants were overweight (minimum BMI of 25; (mean BMI: 31,36), were active Facebook users and had an unlimited texting phone subscription.

  • Where?

    Eastern United States

  • How?

    Students were assigned to one of three groups. Group 1 was called the Facebook group. Members received weekly health messages via Facebook (e.g. polls, eating tips and healthy activity events). Group 2 was called the Facebook Plus Group. Members of this group were also informed through Facebook, but they also received daily additional information and personal feedback via text messaging. Facebook Plus members selected a ‘buddy’. Researchers informed this buddy about the efforts of the participant, so that the buddy could encourage the participant in losing weight. Group 3 was not exposed to the intervention at all. To check the intervention’s effect, students were asked questions about their weight and BMI before, during and after the study.

Facts and findings

  • A combination of Facebook and texting was a cheap, easy and highly effective way to reach students 
  • 97% of the students indicated that they found the intervention helpful in losing weight
  • All students would recommend the intervention to overweight friends
  • The Facebook Plus group showed the best results (e.g. students who were exposed to a combination of Facebook, messaging and feedback, maintained greater weight losses than students in the Facebook only group or students who didn't receive any intervention).
  • There was no difference in weight loss between the Facebook group and the group that didn't receive the intervention.