Internet Technology and Social Support: Are They Beneficial for Overweight Older Adolescents?
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In recent years, literature in the area of web-based interventions for health-related concerns has burgeoned due to the increasing popularity and accessibility of the World Wide Web. Researchers have investigated the success of web-based programs to facilitate improved health behaviors, weight loss, and social support. However, due to the relatively recent application of web-based health-behavior programs, little research has studied whether these interventions are effective with overweight older adolescents. The purpose of this study was to test the application of health behavior theory in an on-line intervention designed to address health behaviors such as exercise and nutrition in a sample of overweight older adolescents. Using a pre-test, post-test, randomized, control group design, participants (n=71) were randomly assigned to either the comparison (Information) group, or the treatment (Information plus Discussion) group. Specific aims of the study were: 1) To test a new health behavior theory, the Model of Influence of Social Support on Health Behavior (MISSHRB), in a group of older adolescents; 2) To determine the feasibility and clinical utility of an internet intervention for social support for overweight older adolescents, and 3) To examine the impact of that intervention on the MISSHB variables. Results provided partial support for the MISSHRB, with social support correlating significantly with expectancies, attitudes, and perceived behavioral control. Results also provided support for the hypotheses that family general support, family specific support, attitudes, and engagement in health behaviors would improve over time. Results supported the feasibility of using an internet intervention with overweight older adolescents, with participants easily engaging in the study, fulfilling study requirements and reporting improved perceptions of the utility of online groups for providing social support. Additionally, results approached significance for medical outcomes, with trends representing Body Mass Index decrease over time, and suggesting that the Information plus Discussion group lost more weight than the Information group. These data suggest that internet information and discussion groups have promise as a means of social support for older overweight adolescents who are interested in improving their health behaviors. These results also provide information about the usefulness of web-based programs in facilitating overweight older adolescents’ engagement in health-related behaviors and the utilization of internet support groups for other marginalized or socially stigmatized groups.
Olson, Wendy Ann (2010). Internet Technology and Social Support: Are They Beneficial for Overweight Older Adolescents?. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from