Document Type


Publication Date



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences


Background: Consumption of health- and fitness-related social media content is a predominant behavior among teenage girls, which puts them at risk for consuming unreliable health-related information.

Objective: This mixed-methods study (qualitative and quantitative) assessed health behavior attitudes and practices as well as social media use among adolescent girls. Additionally, similar practices and behaviors of adults who regularly interact with this population were studied.

Methods: Girls aged 12-18 years were recruited to complete a 28-item survey and participate in a 45- to 60-minute focus group. Adults who regularly interact with adolescent girls, including parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals, were recruited from the local community and given a link to provide online consent and complete a survey.

Results: A total of 27 adolescent girls participated in one of nine focus groups. Participants included 18 high school (age: mean 16.1 years; SD 1.3 years) and 9 middle school (age: mean 12.4 years; SD 0.7 years) girls. Eleven adults completed the online survey. Adolescents used social media to communicate and connect with friends, rather than as a source of health information. Although adolescents may see health-related content, most do not follow health-related pages or share such pages themselves, and fewer are actively searching for this information. Adolescents tend to trust information from familiar sources, and the participants reported that they do not follow official news accounts. Adults considered modeling and discussing healthy behaviors important and reportedly expected adolescents to see some level of health-related, especially fitness-related, content on social media.

Conclusions: Education interventions are warranted for both adolescents and adults with whom adolescent girls regularly interact, in the areas of sedentary behavior to guide them to access reliable online health-related information and be judicious consumers of online health information.

Source Citation

Leary, M. P., Clegg, E. N., Santella, M. E., Murray, P. J., Downs, J. S., & Olfert, M. D. (2019). Consumption of Health-Related Content on Social Media Among Adolescent Girls: Mixed-Methods Pilot Study. JMIR Formative Research, 3(1), e11404.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Formative Research, is properly cited.

This article received support from the WVU Libraries' Open Access Author Fund.



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