Promoting Health Behavior in Young People in India: Learning for use of Social Media

Document Type : Review Article


1 Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar NH-147, Palaj Village Opp. New Air Force Station HQ, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India

2 IIHMR University, Prabhu Dayal Marg, Near Sanganer Airport, Jaipur- 302029. India



Introduction: In today’s world, social media plays a major role in young people’s lives. Social media has the potential to reach and deliver information far and wide, including information on health behavior and lifestyle which could benefit in long term. The objective of this paper was to examine the use, reach and effectiveness of social media in health promotion and behavior change of young people.
Method: In order to carry out this study, a review of secondary literature was done. PubMed, Cochrane Library and reference lists of relevant articles from 2012-2018 were searched to identify social media interventions. Studies included in the review had used social media interventions for health behavior change. 
Results: Nine studies were identified as relevant to the study objective. Studies mainly used Facebook (n=6) as a social media platform to carry out behavior change interventions. Findings suggest that social media interventions are not only feasible but acceptable in the young community. The principle of engagement and peer or social support emerged as an important construct associated with behavior change.
Conclusion: Social media platform provides advantages like easy accessibility and acceptability. However, its mere availability and increasing use do not ensure its effectiveness. The lessons which this review gives are that while social media is an accepted platform for youth, it will not be effective as a behavior change tool if it is used just for information-sharing. Thus, behavior change theories and social support ensuring engagement are a few recommended approaches for social media interventions to facilitate behavior change.


1.   United Nations. Asolescent and Youth Demographics: A Brief Overview [Internet]. Available from: pager on youth demographics GF.pdf
2.   Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports Government of India. National Youth Policy 2014 [Internet]. 2014. Available from:
3.   Sunitha S, Gururaj G. Health behaviours & problems among young people in india: Cause for concern & call for action. Indian J Med Res. 2014;140:185–208.
4.   World Health Organization. Adolescents: health risks and solutions [Internet]. Available from:
5.   World Health Statistics 2018: Monitoring health for the SDGs [Internet]. World Health Organization. Available from:
6.   Global status report on alcohol and health 2018 [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization. Available from:
7.   Jonathan S. Hausmann, Currie Touloumtzis, White MT, Colbert JA, Gooding H. Adolescent and Young Adult Use of Social Media for Health and its Implications. Physiol Behav. 2017;176(3):139–48.
8.   Rai G. Impact of Social Networking Sites (SNSs): Are Youth affected by its usage? Issues Ideas Educ. 2017;5(1):11–24.
9.   Meena P, Mittal P, Solanki R. Problematic use of social networking sites among urban school going teenagers. Ind Psychiatry J. 2012;21(2):94.
10. Pashaei F, A.R.N. N, Tavakkol K. Young people experience of living with internet: ‎A qualitative study. Int J Behav Sci. 2009;2(4):333–7.
11. Kuriala Kochuchakkalackal G, Eric Santos Reyes M. Development and Efficacy of Acceptance and Cognitive Restructuring Intervention Program on the Symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder and Psychological Well-being of Adolescents: A Pilot Study. Int J Behav Sci. 2019;12(4):141–5.
12. Becker MH. “The Health Belief Model and Personal Health Behaviour.” Health Educ Monogr. 1974;324–473.
13. Rogers E. Diffusion of Innovations. 5th ed. New York, Ny, Free Press, 2003. 
14. Bandura A. Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1986.
15. Ajzen I. The theory of planned behavior. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process. 1991 Dec 1;50(2):179–211.
16. Jacobs MA, Cha S, Villanti AC, Graham AL. Using Tumblr to reach and engage young adult smokers: A proof of concept in context. Am J Health Behav. 2016;40(1):48–54.
17. Pechmann C, Pan L, Delucchi K, Lakon CM, Prochaska JJ. Development of a Twitter-based intervention for smoking cessation that encourages high-quality social media interactions via automessages. J Med Internet Res. 2015;17(2).
18. Haines-Saah RJ, Kelly MT, Oliffe JL, Bottorff JL. Picture me smokefree: A qualitative study using social media and digital photography to engage young adults in tobacco reduction and cessation. J Med Internet Res. 2015;17(1):e27.
19. Struik LL, Baskerville NB. The role of facebook in crush the crave, a mobile-and social media-based smoking cessation intervention: Qualitative framework analysis of posts. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(7).
20. Looyestyn J, Kernot J, Boshoff K, Maher C. A web-based, social networking beginners’running intervention for adults aged 18 to 50 years delivered via a facebook group: Randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(2):1–13.
21. Zhang J, Brackbill D, Yang S, Centola D. Efficacy and causal mechanism of an online social media intervention to increase physical activity: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med Reports. 2015;2:651–7.
22. Rote AE, Klos LA, Brondino MJ, Harley AE, Swartz AM. The Efficacy of a Walking Intervention Using Social Media to Increase Physical Activity: A Randomized Trial. J Phys Act Health. 2015;12:S18–25.
23. Gold J, Pedrana AE, Stoove MA, Chang S, Howard S, Asselin J, et al. Developing health promotion interventions on social networking sites: recommendations from The FaceSpace Project. J Med Internet Res. 2012;14(1).
24. Andrade EL, Evans WD, Barrett ND, Cleary SD, Edberg MC, Alvayero RD, et al. Development of the place-based Adelante social marketing campaign for prevention of substance use, sexual risk and violence among Latino immigrant youth. Health Educ Res. 2018;33(2):125–44.
25. Mcgloin AF, Eslami S. Digital and social media opportunities for dietary behaviour change. Proc Nutr Soc. 2014;74(2):139–48.
26. Prochaska J, Diclemente C, Norcross J. RR96-33 Baumol 1996.pdf. Am Psychol. 1992;47(9):1102–14.
27. Heldman A, Schindelar J, Weaver JB. Social Media Engagement and Public Health Communication: Implications for Public Health Organizations Being Truly “Social.” Public Health Rev. 2013;35(1):1–18.
28. Anand S, Gupta M, Kwatra S. Social Media and Effective Health Communication. Int J Soc Sci. 2013;2(8):39–46.
29. Badri M, Nuaimi A Al, Guang Y, Rashedi A Al. School performance, social networking effects, and learning of school children: Evidence of reciprocal relationships in Abu Dhabi. Telemat Informatics. 2017;34(8):1433–44.
30. Moller AC, Merchant G, Conroy DE, West R, Hekler EB, Kugler KC, et al. Applying and advancing behavior change theories and techniques in the context of a digital health revolution: Proposals for more effectively realizing untapped potential. J Behav Med. 2017;40(1):85–98.
31. Abdulahi A, Jalil B, Lumpur K, Samadi MB, Gharleghi B. A Study on the Negative Effects of Social Networking Sites Such as Facebook among Asia Pacific University Scholars in Malaysia. Int J Bus Soc Sci. 2014;5(10):133–45.
32. Singh MM, Amiri M, Sabbarwal S. Social Media Usage: Positive and Negative Effects on the Life Style of Indian Youth. Iran J Soc Sci Humanit Res. 2017;5(3):123–7.
33. Sunar S, Priya VV, Gayathri R. Effect of social networking site on academic performance. Drug Invent Today. 2018;10(9):1814–6.