Adolescent Peer Influence on Eating Behaviors via Social Media: Scoping Review



The influence of social media among adolescent peer groups can be a powerful change agent.


Our scoping review aimed to elucidate the ways in which social media use among adolescent peers influences eating behaviors.


A scoping review of the literature of articles published from journal inception to 2019 was performed by searching PubMed (ie, MEDLINE), Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and other databases. The review was conducted in three steps: (1) identification of the research question and clarification of criteria using the population, intervention, comparison, and outcome (PICO) framework; (2) selection of articles from the literature using the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines; and (3) charting and summarizing information from selected articles. PubMed’s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and Embase’s Emtree subject headings were reviewed along with specific keywords to construct a comprehensive search strategy. Subject headings and keywords were based on adolescent age groups, social media platforms, and eating behaviors. After screening 1387 peer-reviewed articles, 37 articles were assessed for eligibility. Participant age, gender, study location, social media channels utilized, user volume, and content themes related to findings were extracted from the articles.


Six articles met the final inclusion criteria. A final sample size of 1225 adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years) from the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Brazil, and Australia were included in controlled and qualitative studies. Instagram and Facebook were among the most popular social media platforms that influenced healthful eating behaviors (ie, fruit and vegetable intake) as well as unhealthful eating behaviors related to fast food advertising. Online forums served as accessible channels for eating disorder relapse prevention among youth. Social media influence converged around four central themes: (1) visual appeal, (2) content dissemination, (3) socialized digital connections, and (4) adolescent marketer influencers.


Adolescent peer influence in social media environments spans the spectrum of healthy eating (ie, pathological) to eating disorders (ie, nonpathological). Strategic network-driven approaches should be considered for engaging adolescents in the promotion of positive dietary behaviors.

The full study is available in Journal of Medical Internet Research.