Measuring Social Support for Weight Loss in an Internet Weight Loss Community

Department of Internal Medicine, Division of General Medicine, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.
Journal of Health Communication (Impact Factor: 1.61). 02/2011; 16(2):198-211. DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2010.535106
Source: PubMed


Although overweight and obese individuals are turning to Internet communities for social support for weight loss, there is no validated online instrument for measuring the subjective social support experiences of participants in these communities. The authors' objective was to determine whether an online version of a validated paper questionnaire, the Weight Management Support Inventory, is appropriate for measuring social support among members of Internet weight loss communities. The authors administered the paper and online versions of the questionnaire in random, counterbalanced fashion to 199 members of a large Internet weight loss community. Scores for the paper and online versions were comparable in between-subjects and within-subjects comparisons. Convergent validity is suggested by the finding that participants who posted messages on Internet forums several times per day reported more social support than those who posted less frequently. However, the instrumental (tangible) support items did not load significantly on the instrumental support factor, suggesting that instrumental support is not relevant to the social support exchanged among participants in these communities. The authors conclude that the online, modified Weight Management Support Inventory, without items for instrumental support, is an appropriate instrument for measuring social support for weight loss among members of Internet weight loss communities.

Download full-text


Available from: Joseph F Lucke, Oct 09, 2015
1 Follower
33 Reads
  • Source
    • "Especially when one lacks sufficient support from an offline social network and builds intimate relationships in OSGs, one can perceive support from online relationship s to be more rewarding than support from those offline relationship s and develop a preferenc e for online social interaction. For people experienci ng health problems, developmen t of preference for online social interaction can be negative because certain types of support are not easily acquired in online relationships (Chang, 2009; Hwang et al., 2011 ). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The purpose of the current study was to identify potential factors leading to preference for social interaction in online support groups (OSGs) over offline interaction. By identifying such factors, the current study advances understanding of the way patients use the Internet as a supportive resource and integrate support from offline and online relationships. An online survey was conducted with current users of health-related OSGs (N = 158). Findings show that those who were dissatisfied with the support they received from their current offline contacts were more likely to prefer social interaction in OSGs. Such a preference was prominent among those who built deeper social relationships in OSGs. Results suggest that some people develop a preference for social interaction in OSGs over offline interaction and use computer-mediated relationships as a possible alternative to offline support networks. Healthcare professionals and users as well as designers of OSGs must acknowledge the limits of online support and caution against the possibility of developing excessive reliance on online support resources.
    Computers in Human Behavior 07/2013; 29(4):1408-1414. DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.019 · 2.69 Impact Factor
    • "Therefore, we evaluated a naturalistic cohort of members of SparkPeople, which is a free online weight loss program based in the United States. Prior studies described the accuracy of advice [17] and types of social support [18] shared among SparkPeople members, as well as the positive association between use of the program’s online forums and perceived social support [19,20]. The purpose of this retrospective cohort study was to describe the magnitude of weight loss and examine the association between website usage and weight loss. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Online weight loss programs are increasingly popular. However, little is known about outcomes and associations with website usage among members of free online weight loss programs. This retrospective cohort study examined the association between website usage and weight loss among members of a free commercial online weight loss program (SparkPeople). We conducted a retrospective analysis of a systematic random sample of members who joined the program during February 1 to April 30, 2008, and included follow-up data through May 10, 2010. The main outcome was net weight change based on self-reported weight. Measures of website usage included log-ins, self-monitoring entries (weight, food, exercise), and use of social support tools (discussion forums, friendships). The main sample included 1258 members with at least 2 weight entries. They were 90.7% female, with mean (SD) age 33.6 (11.0) and mean (SD) BMI 31.6 (7.7). Members with at least one forum post lost an additional 1.55 kg (95% CI 0.55 kg to 2.55 kg) relative to those with no forum posts. Having at least 4 log-in days, weight entry days, or food entry days per 30 days was significantly associated with weight loss. In the multiple regression analysis, members with at least 4 weight entry days per 30 days reported 5.09 kg (95% CI 3.29 kg to 6.88 kg) more weight loss per 30 days than those with fewer weight entry days. After controlling for weight entry days, the other website usage variables were not associated with weight change. Weekly or more frequent self-monitoring of weight is associated with greater weight loss among members of this free online weight loss program.
    Journal of Medical Internet Research 01/2013; 15(1):e11. DOI:10.2196/jmir.2195 · 3.43 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Little is known about how much smartphone apps for weight control adhere to evidence-informed practices. The aim of this study was to review and summarize the content of available weight control apps. Information on content, user rating, and price was extracted from iTunes on September 25, 2009. Apps (n = 204) were coded for adherence to 13 evidence-informed practices for weight control. Latent class analysis was used to identify subgroups of apps based on endorsement practices. Only a small percentage of apps had five or more of the 13 practices (15%). Latent class analysis revealed three main types of apps: diet, physical activity, and weight journals (19%); dietary advice and journals (34%); and weight trackers (46%). User ratings were not associated with apps from these three classes. Many apps have insufficient evidence-informed content. Research is needed that seeks to develop, improve, and evaluate these apps.
    Translational Behavioral Medicine 12/2011; 1(4):523-9. DOI:10.1007/s13142-011-0076-5
Show more