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Lose your weight with online buddies: behavioral contagion in an online weight-loss community

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Purpose

A question of interest is whether online social networks are effective in promoting behavioral changes and weight loss. The purpose of this paper is to examine the contagion effect of an online buddy network on individuals’ self-monitoring behavior.

Design/methodology/approach

This study collects data from an online weight-loss community and constructs an online buddy network. This study compares the effects of the network structure of the buddy network and the actor attributes when predicting self-monitoring performance by employing the auto-logistic actor attribute models.

Findings

This study confirms the contagion effect on weigh-in behavior in the online buddy network. The contagion effect is significantly predictive when controlling for actor attribute and other network structure effects.

Originality/value

There is limited evidence that one’s weight-related behavior can be affected by online social contacts. This study contributes to the literature on peer influence on health by examining the contagion effect on weight-related behavior between online buddies. The findings can assist in designing peer-based interventions to harness influence from online social contacts for weight loss.
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Keywords: Behaviour change; E-health; Information system development; Social networking; User participation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Management Science and Engineering, Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, Dalian, China 2: School of Economics and Management, University of Science and Technology Beijing, Beijing, China 3: Department of Business Administration, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China

Publication date: April 8, 2019

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