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Facebook profile sections as indicators for health behavior and health risk behavior among college students

Bekkers, Jeroen G.T. (2012) Facebook profile sections as indicators for health behavior and health risk behavior among college students.

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Abstract:Do Facebook profiles provide a reliable snapshot of the profile owner’s health behavior? From the healthcare perspective, this study aimed at exploring the potential of Facebook as a screening tool for health behavior. This was done by exploring the relationship between health behavior references on student Facebook profiles and associated health behavior. The present study focused on a set of five health behavior topics, proven to be common problematic health behaviors in college student consumption and lifestyle patterns: alcohol use, illicit drug use, tobacco use, nutrition, and sports. Students Facebook profiles were taken into content analysis on references to these health behaviors and health risk behaviors and the found results were related to questionnaire results on alcohol use, drug use, tobacco use, nutrition patterns, sports behavior, and a set of ten additional health related implications. The results suggest that references to sports, tobacco and partially alcohol provide a valid reflection of associated health behavior and health risk behavior. Moreover, the results also provide evidence for direct relationships between the health behavior references on Facebook and related everyday implications such as hourly wages and sickness frequency, especially for the sports and alcohol topic. In sum, the results provide evidence for the use of Facebook profiles as a screening tool for students’ health behavior. Moreover, the results support the potential of Facebook as screening tool for identifying students and subpopulations which may benefit from interventions on health-risk behaviors, and for identifying trends in the development of the health behavior risks, problems, and consequences on those health behavior topics. Since this research had exploratory intentions and several limitations from the sample and recruitment perspective, future research is recommended to further explore the health behavior risk screening potential of social network site profiles.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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