Overweight and obesity pose a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of college students. However, studies of interventions to improve the health behaviors of college students are few in number, largely atheoretical, and have limited potential for widespread dissemination. The goal of this study was to evaluate a pilot of an internet based social-networking intervention to promote health behavior change. Specific aims were to assess the role of behavioral engagement as a mechanism of change over time, review qualitative feedback regarding participants' likes and dislikes of the website, and use social networking analysis (SNA) to analyze structural support and its effects on behavior change. The sample consisted of 39 students from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health. Participants each selected a specific health behavior goal that they wished to achieve in the 10-week period of the study and completed the web-based individual health behavior change project as part of the coursework. Results showed a significant improvement in participant health behavior across the course of the study period. Results also indicated that level of peer feedback and support received significantly moderated change in health behavior across time such that greater improvement in health behavior was observed in those who received a greater amount of peer feedback. Qualitative analysis revealed participants reported the features of peer feedback, personal blog, and line graph of heath behavior change to be the most helpful. The most commonly reported frustrations were website technical difficulties, particularly at the start of the study. The SNA showed that indegree (number of ties received) and, to a lesser extent, outdegree (number of ties originated with another) predicted attainment of clinically significant change. Furthermore, examination of the structural network diagram revealed that more concentrated sets of reciprocal ties existed among participants who attained clinically significant change. Although further research is needed, these findings suggest that web-based social support interventions may be effective in promoting change in variety of health behaviors and that SNA is a useful technique for investigating the influence of aspects of structural support on health behavior change.

LLU Discipline

General Psychology




School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Owen, Jason

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Obesity; Health; Social Networks;

Subject - Local

Social Networking; Health Promotion



Page Count

112 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

Included in

Psychology Commons