Efficacy and Causal Mechanism of an Online Social Network Intervention to Increase Physical Activity
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
: 9:15 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
To identify what mechanisms of online social networks – social support or social comparison – can increase physical activity levels, we conducted a 2 (social support versus none) by 2 (social comparison versus none) factorial randomized controlled trial. The social support factor was constructed by assigning participants into online social networks in which 6 members were instructed to support each other’s performance. The social comparison factor was constructed by assigning participants into online social networks in which 6 members were instructed to compare their performance. In total, 790 graduate students (74.1% female, mean age = 25.2, SD = 3.4) were enrolled in a 13-week physical activity program in which they participated in offline exercise classes and were randomized to four versions of the study website: basic website for enrolling in classes, website plus online social support networks, website plus online social comparison networks, and website plus both social support and social comparison network features. Results showed the social comparison factor significantly increased the number of class enrollments by 1.4 on average per person (mean = 3.7, SE = 0.40) in comparison with the non-comparison factor (mean = 2.3, SE=0.35) (Cohen’s d = 0.18, p < .05). The support plus comparison condition significantly increased self-reported number of days for intensive exercise in comparison with the control condition (p < .05). In contrast to much of the existing literature that focuses on online social support, our study provides evidence that social comparison engineered through online social networks may serve as an effective approach for improving behavior change.
Communication and informatics
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health
Design online social network-based health interventions.
Discuss the theoretical mechanisms of online social networks for health promotion.
Keyword(s): Social Media, Physical Activity
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As a fifth-year PhD student, I have been conducting both qualitative and quantitative research and analyzing data from several health promotion and risk-reduction interventions, including a health promotion project for South African men, a health promotion project for African American Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM), and an HIV/STI risk-reduction project for African American adolescents. My research focuses on new media technology and health promotion. I presented at the 2013 APHA conference in Boston.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines,
and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed
in my presentation.