The effectiveness of a social media intervention for reducing portion sizes in young adults and adolescents
Abstract Objective: Adolescents and young adults select larger portions of energy-dense food than recommended. The majority of young people have a social media profile, and peer influence on social media may moderate the size of portions selected. Methods: Two pilot-interventions examined whether exposure to images of peers’ portions of high-energy-dense (HED) snacks and sugar-sweetened-beverages (SSBs) on social media (Instagram) would influence reported desired portions selected on a survey. Confederate peers posted ‘their’ portions of HED snacks and SSBs on Instagram. At baseline and intervention end participants completed surveys that assessed desired portion sizes. Results: In intervention 1, Undergraduate students (N=20, Mean age=19.0y, SD=0.65y) participated in a two-week intervention in a within-subjects design. Participants reported smaller desired portions of HED snacks and SSBs following the intervention, and smaller desired portions of HED snacks for their peers. In intervention 2, adolescents (N=44, Mean age=14.4y, SD=1.06y) participated in a four-week intervention (n=23) or control condition (n=21) in a between-subjects design. Intervention 2 did not influence adolescents to reduce their desired reported portion sizes of HED snacks or SSBs relative to control. Conclusions: These preliminary studies demonstrated that social media is a feasible way to communicate with young people. However, while the intervention influenced young adults’ reported desired portions and social norms regarding their peers’ portions, no significant impact on desired reported portion sizes was found for HED snacks and SSBs in adolescents. Desired portion sizes of some foods and beverages may be resistant to change via a social media intervention in this age group.
open access journal
Citation : Sharps, Hetherington, Blundell-Birtill et al (in press) The effectiveness of a social media intervention for reducing portion sizes in young adults and adolescents, Digital Health,
ISSN : 2055-2076
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed : Yes