University of Twente Student Theses


Social Support and its influence on online weight loss interventions : a systematic review

Kindler, S. (2016) Social Support and its influence on online weight loss interventions : a systematic review.

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Abstract:Background: Overweight is a growing problem in our modern-day society. Almost half of the Dutch population is categorized as overweight. Online weight loss interventions are implemented on the internet to counter or to prevent this problem. The purpose of designing these interventions is that they persuade people to change their everyday behaviour to successfully lose weight. Different factors have been found to be essential, one of which is social support. Giving participants the opportunity to exchange their experiences and to learn from each other can increase the effectiveness of an online intervention. Moreover, it is relevant in what way(s) social support is implemented, because there seem to be important differences with regard to the effectiveness of an intervention. Objective: The aim of this review is to examine how social support is implemented within online interventions and linking that to the effectiveness of online weight loss interventions. Methods: To categorize social support, this review will make use of two different approaches: a categorization of Morrison, Yardley, Powell, and Michie (2012) and the Persuasive System Design model (PSD-Model). This review focuses on weight loss interventions by looking at the selection criteria, which also describe the effect for the outcome weight loss and the persuasive elements. For the data extraction, the interventions were analysed using the following categories: study characteristics, groups, study design, opportunities for social interaction, forms of social support, persuasive technology in the technology, and the effectiveness of these interventions. The effect size for the differences between pre- and post-test per intervention were presented as Cohen’s d. Results: The final search yielded 9 articles, but for the final analyses 14 interventions were used, because some articles described two different online interventions. All 14 interventions provide at least one feature for social support. The most frequently used form was asynchronous-mediated intervention with peers, implemented in the form of discussion forums. Furthermore, the number of PSD elements of social support ranges between 2 and 6 elements in the interventions. Almost all interventions report a positive outcome for weight loss. It is indicated that asynchronous-mediated contact with peers is positively associated with weight loss, as well as simulation of person-to-person interaction, using avatars. The PSD elements “Normative influence”, “Recognition” and “Competition” and “Cooperation” indicate a positive association with the effectiveness of an online intervention. Discussion: This review supports earlier findings that online weight loss interventions offer a good way for participants to lose weight. Furthermore, social support seems to be an effective way of encouraging the participants to stay actively involved in the process of behaviour change and therefore losing weight through learning from others. It has also been shown that much more research is necessary to get insight into the “Black Box”. A way to do that would be to do research on what motivates participants to use social support features and how they use this, because the results also indicate a positive association between usage of the social support features and weight loss.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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