Like It or Not, Facebook and Friends Can Be Used to Influence Health Behavior

Facebook Friends Influence Health BehaviorMost people call it the "art" of persuasion, but public health researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are trying to pinpoint the "science" behind social influence.

They hope a better understanding of human interactions — both face-to-face and online — can help prevent disease and promote general health.

Whether the goal is to curb smoking at a local school or to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases within a community, it is important to understand the social structure of the group and the dynamics of influence at play, says Thomas W. Valente, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

"If I want to go into a high school and change physical activity or other obesity behaviors, I have to understand there are cliques and subgroups of students that exhibit different risks," Valente said. "I would design different interventions for the different groups. We constantly are concerned about how ineffective our interventions are — this is a big reason why those interventions are not working. We can do a much better job promoting healthy behaviors if we understand the social network contexts and design these interventions with those cues in mind."

Full story of Facebook influencing behavior at Science Daily

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Will Savage

Quantum Units Continuing Education provides online CEU training's to licensed professional mental health therapists, counselors, social workers and nurses. Our blog provides updates in the field of news and research related to mental health and substance abuse treatment.