Social media's influence on adolescents' food choices: A mixed studies systematic literature review

Appetite. 2022 Jan 1;168:105765. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105765. Epub 2021 Oct 20.

Abstract

Over 90% of adolescents have at least one social media account, and their presence on social media continues to grow. Food and beverage brands capitalize on this trend by marketing their products on social media to adolescents. Depending on the nutrition value of the products being marketed, social media advertisements' influence may contribute to the risk of developing unfavorable health outcomes such as obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. This review aimed to investigate social media's food and beverage advertisements' role in influencing adolescents' food choices by appraising published literature. A systematic literature review was conducted reporting on social media's role in adolescents' food choices. Articles were searched through CINAHL and PubMed from scholarly journals between 2015 and 2020, using the search terms: social media use, food advertisements, adolescents, and food choices. Eligible articles were selected based on inclusion criteria. PRISMA guidelines were followed, and study quality was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. The analysis was conducted using narrative analysis to identify key findings. Of the 234 records, six articles met inclusion criteria. The studies revealed two major findings: adolescents were more likely to recall unhealthy food and celebrity influence was a common component of the advertisements. This review suggests that food and beverage companies use social media for marketing their products by targeting the adolescent population. The use of celebrities and influencers and the promotion of "unhealthy" products appear to be commonly used tactics. With these findings, healthcare professionals should consider screening adolescents routinely for social media use and current eating habits and educating the adolescents, parents, and families about health risk. Additionally, implementing legislation and policies may be beneficial in preventing this exposure.

Keywords: Adolescents; Food behaviors; Food marketing; Food preferences; Social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Food
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Marketing
  • Social Media*