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Social media users ‘copy’ eating habits of friends

Social media users are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables—or snack on junk food—if they think their friends do the same, according to a new study which may lead to new ways of nudging people towards a healthy diet.

Researchers, including those from Aston University in the UK, asked 369 university students to estimate the amount of fruit, vegetables, ‘energy-dense snacks’, and sugary drinks their Facebook peers consumed on a daily basis.

They cross-referenced this information with the participants’ own actual eating habits, and showed that those who felt their social circles ‘approved’ of eating junk food consumed significantly more themselves.

Their study, published in the journal Appetite, also revealed that participants ate an extra fifth of a portion of fruit and vegetables themselves for every portion they thought their social media peers ate.

If participants believed their friends got their ‘five a day’ of fruits and vegetables, they were likely to eat an extra portion themselves, the scientists noted.

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