How social media affects women’s health

Newswise – A new study led by researchers at the University of Sydney has found that how young women interact with social media plays an important role in how they think – and act – about their health.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Marketing Quarterly, followed 30 women, ages 18-35, during the 2021 COVID-19 lockdowns to understand the factors influencing them to embrace diet and exercise messages on social Accept media platforms Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

The study’s lead author, PhD student Clare Davies from the discipline of Media and Communications, said the initial results suggest that women are just as likely to accept health messages on social media – promoted by influencers – as they are by health communicators.

“The women we spoke to were strongly motivated to take up messages about diet and exercise on social media when they felt a sense of ‘connection’ or belonging to the source of the message,” she said.

“Social media influencers embody that connection by nurturing relationships with their audience and sharing anecdotes about their own lives and behaviors. This was amplified during the pandemic as many women went online to seek connectivity and explore new avenues for healthy living.”

Although much of the world has emerged from lockdowns caused by COVID-19, Ms Davies said many of the women interviewed continued to participate in diet and exercise programs post-pandemic due to the “sense of friendship and community” they generated promoted by wellness influencers shared health and lifestyle goals.

“Access to exclusive online communities, coupled with real “meet and greets” with the influencers, is a huge advantage for women in deciding whether or not to participate in certain programs or diets,” she said.

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Participants also indicated that if the influencer promoting them had similar life or health experiences, or even a similar body type, they would be strongly encouraged to start and stick to diet and exercise programs.

“Women reported being attracted to social media influencers who shared intimate details about their lives and whose personal narratives they could relate to. This included her having a similar health issue as the influencer, such as endometriosis, or discussing things like her fertility and relationship issues.”

Similarly, the study found that exposure to other women’s personal testimonies and “before and after” pictures in closed online communities was an important factor in shaping women’s understandings and behaviors about health.

One participant who was part of a closed Facebook group connected to influencer Jessica Sepel (of JSHealth Vitamin Fame) reported that the strength of other women’s private testimonies prompted her to take a dietary supplement for a condition “which she had never experienced before”. Product.

Study co-author, Associate Professor Alana Mann, Media and Communications, said: “This study provides a snapshot of the impact of social media on women’s behavior, particularly in relation to complex beliefs about their health and well-being.”

“Our current findings and emerging research on social media and public health show that health marketers and public health activists need to recognize that social media influencers and online communities offer new opportunities for communicating complex health messages to women.”

Ms Davies added: “This is about listening to the consumer. Women, and younger people in general, are increasingly getting their information from non-medical sources, and this information affects their ability to make independent decisions in everyday life.”

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“It is vital that those designing and implementing public health campaigns work with this knowledge to ensure people are receiving the right information about health and healthy living.”