Structural social support predicts functional social support in an online weight loss programme
Article first published online: 2 JAN 2012
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Volume 17, Issue 3, pages 345–352, June 2014
How to Cite
Hwang, K. O., Etchegaray, J. M., Sciamanna, C. N., Bernstam, E. V. and Thomas, E. J. (2014), Structural social support predicts functional social support in an online weight loss programme. Health Expectations, 17: 345–352. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-7625.2011.00759.x
- Issue published online: 28 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 2 JAN 2012
- Accepted for publication 25 November 2011
Background Online weight loss programmes allow members to use social media tools to give and receive social support for weight loss. However, little is known about the relationship between the use of social media tools and the perception of specific types of support.
Objective To test the hypothesis that the frequency of using social media tools (structural support) is directly related to perceptions of Encouragement, Information and Shared Experiences support (functional support).
Design Online survey.
Participants Members of an online weight loss programme.
Methods The outcome was the perception of Encouragement (motivation, congratulations), Information (advice, tips) and Shared Experiences (belonging to a group) social support. The predictor was a social media scale based on the frequency of using forums and blogs within the online weight loss programme (alpha = 0.91). The relationship between predictor and outcomes was evaluated with structural equation modelling (SEM) and logistic regression, adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, BMI and duration of website membership.
Results The 187 participants were mostly female (95%) and white (91%), with mean (SD) age 37 (12) years and mean (SD) BMI 31 (8). SEM produced a model in which social media use predicted Encouragement support, but not Information or Shared Experiences support. Participants who used the social media tools at least weekly were almost five times as likely to experience Encouragement support compared to those who used the features less frequently [adjusted OR 4.8 (95% CI 1.8–12.8)].
Conclusions Using the social media tools of an online weight loss programme at least once per week is strongly associated with receiving Encouragement for weight loss behaviours.