Social media use informing behaviours related to physical activity, diet and quality of life during COVID-19: a mixed methods study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Background: This mixed methods study explored how social media use informed physical activity and diet-related behaviours, and self-perceived Quality of Life (QoL) during COVID-19, and assessed the contextual factors that drive social media use for health-related behaviour change in diverse groups. During the COVID-19 lockdown periods there were reported changes to social media use and health behaviours, and this gave an opportunity to investigate potential relationships.

Methods: An explanatory sequential research design of two parts was used: (1) An online survey that assessed social media use in relation to physical activity levels, diet quality and QoL (n = 786; Mage 45.1 ± 19.1 (range 16–88) years; Female =69%); (2) 20 purposive focus groups (n = 69; Mage = 52.88 ± 18.45 years, Female n = 68%) to understand the contextual factors that drive social media use for health-related behaviour change. Descriptive and thematic analysis were conducted.

Results: Participants in this study reported that social media facilitated the self-management of behaviours related to physical activity, diet and QoL, through access to information to inform workouts and dietary quality, and the opportunities for interaction with peers, family members and within social groups. Contextual factors including work, home and lifestyle arrangements, pre-existing health-related knowledge and behaviours, and the perceived value of social media for health influenced the relationship between social media use and self-reported outcomes. Social media influencers, peers/family members, and official organisations influenced the application of health-related information accessed via social media.

Conclusions: The evidence shows that participants were critical users of social media and were able to use social media to derive benefit for their health and wellbeing. Detailed guidance for those who use social media, as well as those who recommend and endorse social media content is required to maximise the potential of social media to support health behaviours. Future public health strategies and social media interventions should acknowledge diversity in contextual factors driving social media use for health behaviour change.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1333
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2021


  • COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Diet, Exercise, Female, Humans, Male, Quality of Life, SARS-CoV-2, Social Media