Social media users copy online friends’ healthy or unhealthy eating habits: Study

social media, eating habits, health

Social media influences netizens' eating habits, says study. (Source: Pexels)

Social media has undoubtedly had a huge impact on our lives and a new study claimed that it can also influence netizens' eating habits. Published in the scientific journal Appetite, the study showed how social media users are likely to eat healthy or junk food after being influenced by their peer group.

For the study, Aston University researchers got 369 participants to eat an extra fifth of a portion of fruit and vegetables for every portion they thought their social media peers ate. They were asked to estimate the amount of fruit, vegetables, 'energy-dense snacks' and sugary drinks their Facebook friends ate on a daily basis.

Facebook users were found to eat an extra portion of unhealthy snack foods and sugary drinks for every three portions that they thought their online social groups consumed. Again, those who thought their social media peers had a healthy diet ate more portions of fruits and vegetables.

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"This study suggests we may be influenced by our social peers more than we realise when choosing certain foods. We seem to be subconsciously accounting for how others behave when making our own food choices," PhD student Lily Hawkins, who led the study with supervisor Dr Jason Thomas, was quoted as saying by ScienceDaily.

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"The implication is that we can use social media as a tool to 'nudge' each other's eating behaviour within friendship groups, and potentially use this knowledge as a tool for public health interventions," Hawkins added.

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Professor Claire Farrow, director, Applied Health Research Group, Aston University, was also quoted as saying, "With children and young people spending a huge amount of time interacting with peers and influencers via social media, the important new findings from this study could help shape how we deliver interventions that help them adopt healthy eating habits from a young age--and stick with them for life."

The study, however, found no link between people's eating habits and their Body Mass Index (BMI).