Engagement of young adult cancer survivors within a Facebook-based physical activity intervention

Original Research


Few studies have examined how young adult cancer survivors use online social media. The objective of this study was to characterize Facebook engagement by young adult cancer survivors in the context of a physical activity (PA) intervention program. Young adult cancer survivors participated in one of two Facebook groups as part of a 12-week randomized trial of a PA intervention (FITNET) compared to a self-help comparison (SC) condition. A moderator actively prompted group discussions in the FITNET Facebook group, while social interaction was unprompted in the SC group. We examined factors related to engagement, differences in engagement by group format and types of Facebook posts, and the relationship between Facebook engagement and PA outcomes. There were no group differences in the number of Facebook comments posted over 12 weeks (FITNET, 153 vs. SC, 188 p = 0.85) or the proportion of participants that reported engaging within Facebook group discussions at least 1–2 days/week. The proportion of participants that made any posts decreased over time in both groups. SC participants were more likely than FITNET participants to agree that group discussions caused them to become physically active (p = 0.040) and that group members were supportive (p = 0.028). Participant-initiated posts elicited significantly more comments and likes than moderator-initiated posts. Responses posted on Facebook were significantly associated with light PA at 12 weeks (β = 11.77, t(85) = 1.996, p = 0.049) across groups. Engagement within Facebook groups was variable and may be associated with PA among young adult cancer survivors. Future research should explore how to promote sustained engagement in online social networks. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01349153


Young adults Cancer survivors Physical activity Social media Social support 


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Copyright information

© Society of Behavioral Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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