Practicing what they preach: Health behaviors of those who provide health advice to extensive social networks

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Health Communication








As a way of identifying a conduit to disseminate health information, this study aims to explore health behaviors and attitudes of a unique group of extensively socially-networked individuals who regularly are asked for their health advice. Respondents from a population-based consumer opinion panel (n=2,639) were categorized as extensively socially-networked (75+ friends and acquaintances, and almost daily giving friends advice on general issues) vs. non-networked. The networked respondents were further divided into health-networked (regularly asked for health advice) versus only-socially- networked groups (asked for general advice, not health). Chi-square analyses, ANOVA tests, and multivariate regressions controlling for sociodemographic variables compared health behaviors and attitudes between groups. Results indicated that health-networked individuals reported more positive health behaviors (e.g., fruit and vegetable consumption) and attitudes than only-socially-networked and non-networked individuals. Future research is warranted to elucidate how providing health advice to a large network contributes to the positive health of health-networked individuals. Exploratory analyses revealed that doctors and health/fitness magazines were main sources of health and nutrition information for health-networked respondents. Through their advice and word-of-mouth, health-networked individuals have the potential to influence the health information of large groups of people and, therefore, may serve as valuable change agents to disseminate health and nutrition information.