People’s Eating Habits Are Influenced by Their Friends Online, Study Says

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. peer / pɪər / (n) – someone with a similar status or condition as another person

    She used to be so shy that she didn’t want to play with her peers in kindergarten.

  2. estimate / ˈɛs təˌmeɪt / (v) – to give a good guess about the amount, size, weight, or cost of something

    Scientists estimate the age of the Earth to be 4.5 billion years.

  3. snack / snæk / (v) – to eat a small portion of food in between regular meals

    Students love to snack on chocolate bars during their break time.

  4. considerably / kənˈsɪd ər ə bli / (adv) – to a great extent

    She improved considerably after regularly going to therapy.

  5. subconsciously / sʌbˈkɒn ʃəs li / (adv) – to think or do something without being aware of it

    I love that song so much that I always hum it subconsciously.


Read the text below.

A new study suggests that people’s eating habits are likely influenced by their peers online.

The study, published in the journal Appetite, revealed that social media users are more likely to eat certain types of food if they think their peers online do the same. Researchers from Aston University interviewed 369 university students for the study. The students were asked to estimate how much sugary drinks, snacks, vegetables, and fruits they think their friends online consume each day. They were also asked about their own eating habits.

The researchers then compared the reports about the students’ own eating habits with the estimates of what the subjects’ peers eat. The analysis revealed that people eat the same kinds of food they think their peers online approve of and consume.

Participants who believe their peers online eat junk food tend to also snack on considerably more unhealthy food. On the other hand, participants who believe their peers eat healthily also eat more servings of fruits and vegetables.

Study lead author Lily Hawkins explained that the reason behind the phenomenon is that people subconsciously rely on how others behave when choosing what food to eat.

According to Hawkins, the study’s findings suggest that social media can be used as a tool to influence people’s eating habits through their friends or social groups. She believes that health professionals can use this knowledge to create policies that can improve general public health.

For the next stage of the study, the researchers will observe the participants over a period of time to see whether social media’s influence on their eating habits has any long-term effects on their weight.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• In your opinion, who are most likely to be influenced by seeing what their peers eat online (e.g. children, teenagers)? Explain.
• Aside from food choices, how else do you think people’s lifestyles and health can be affected by what they see online? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Currently, do you think that social media’s influence on people’s health is positive or negative? Discuss.
• How can health professionals use social media platforms to promote better health? Explain.