Why we need more than just randomized controlled trials to establish the effectiveness of online social networks for health behavior change

Am J Health Promot. 2015 Nov-Dec;30(2):74-6. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.141204-CIT-605.


Despite their popularity and potential to promote health in large populations, the effectiveness of online social networks (e.g., Facebook) to improve health behaviors has been somewhat disappointing. Most of the research examining the effectiveness of such interventions has used randomized controlled trials (RCTs). It is asserted that the modest outcomes may be due to characteristics specific to both online social networks and RCTs. The highly controlled nature of RCTs stifles the dynamic nature of online social networks. Alternative and ecologically valid research designs that evaluate online social networks in real-life conditions are needed to advance the science in this area.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Social Support*