Social media websites are useful in staying in touch with friends and family, but one Kansas State University researcher believes they also may keep you healthy.
Linda Yarrow, assistant professor of human nutrition and a registered and licensed dietitian, said an increasing number of individuals seeking health information are turning to websites like Facebook to get support and advice in addition to their professional medical care. When used correctly, social media websites may help patients stay motivated and accountable, she said.
"The aspect of a support system is so important," Yarrow said. "That's why Weight Watchers works. Many people in the Weight Watchers program have probably heard these instructions for years, but it's being in a support group that works for them. That's what social media provides."
Out of the 74 percent of adults who use the Internet, Yarrow said 80 percent have looked for health information online. Thirty-four percent of adult Internet users have read blogs or used social media to learn more about a medical issue or find support.
While women were slightly more likely than men to use social media for health information, Yarrow said more men are comfortable with it because they don't have to stop what they're doing to make an appointment and get information.
"Women are typically more health conscious, but it's taking off and growing with both genders," Yarrow said. "People are more willing today to share information online than ever before. This is valuable; they're finding support."
The majority of individuals seeking online information or support are those with weight loss concerns. Yarrow said this form of assistance is especially appealing to this group since health insurance typically does not cover weight loss care alone and use of social media is generally free.