Weight loss support seeking on twitter: the impact of weight on follow back rates and interactions

Transl Behav Med. 2017 Mar;7(1):84-91. doi: 10.1007/s13142-016-0429-1.


People seek weight loss support on online social networks, but little is known about how to build a supportive community. We created four Twitter accounts portraying women interested in weight loss (two obese, two normal weight/overweight) and followed health care professional and peer accounts for 2-5 weeks. We examined follow back rates, interactions, and organic follows from professionals and peers by weight status. Follow back rates did not differ by weight status when following professionals (6.8 % normal weight/overweight vs 11.0 % for obese; p = 0.4167) or peers (6.7 % for normal weight/overweight vs 10.8 % for obese; p = 0.1548). Number of interactions and organic followers also did not differ by weight status. Peers interacted with study accounts significantly more than professionals (p = 0.0138), but interactions were infrequent. Women seeking weight loss support on Twitter may need to be present for more than 5 weeks to build an interactive weight loss community.

Keywords: Obesity; Peer-to-peer healthcare; Social media; Twitter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Community Networks / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Social Media
  • Social Support*
  • Weight Reduction Programs / methods*