Social Support for Healthy Behaviors: Scale Psychometrics and Prediction of Weight Loss Among Women in a Behavioral Program
Social support could be a powerful weight-loss treatment moderator or mediator but is rarely assessed. We assessed the psychometric properties, initial levels, and predictive validity of a measure of perceived social support and sabotage from friends and family for healthy eating and physical activity (eight subscales). Overweight/obese women randomized to one of two 6-month, group-based behavioral weight-loss programs (N = 267; mean BMI 32.1 ± 3.5; 66.3% White) completed subscales at baseline, and weight loss was assessed at 6 months. Internal consistency, discriminant validity, and content validity were excellent for support subscales and adequate for sabotage subscales; qualitative responses revealed novel deliberate instances not reflected in current sabotage items. Most women (>75%) "never" or "rarely" experienced support from friends or family. Using nonparametric classification methods, we identified two subscales-support from friends for healthy eating and support from family for physical activity-that predicted three clinically meaningful subgroups who ranged in likelihood of losing ≥5% of initial weight at 6 months. Women who "never" experienced family support were least likely to lose weight (45.7% lost weight) whereas women who experienced both frequent friend and family support were more likely to lose weight (71.6% lost weight). Paradoxically, women who "never" experienced friend support were most likely to lose weight (80.0% lost weight), perhaps because the group-based programs provided support lacking from friendships. Psychometrics for support subscales were excellent; initial support was rare; and the differential roles of friend vs. family support could inform future targeted weight-loss interventions to subgroups at risk.