Social Media: Can it help you improve your health?

The Bottom Line

  • Social media is often used to share information and interact with one another about health-related topics.
  • Interactive social media programs may improve some health behaviours—like daily step count—and aspects of physical health, while not being effective in other areas. More research is needed.
  • Accessing health programs from credible sources, such as public health organizations or practitioners, is important.

YouTube, TikTok, Twitter (now “X”), Facebook, and Instagram. These are just a few examples of popular social media platforms that contribute to the current digital landscape. It is estimated that over 4.74 billion people around the world are social media users (1). In Canada, specifically, over 85% of the population uses social media (2). This includes 6 in 10 adults aged 50 to 64 and 1 in 3 older adults aged 65 or over (3). Those who use social media spend a pretty significant chunk of time doing so – an average of nearly two and a half hours a day (1).

What exactly is this phenomenon that has so many of us logged-in and engaged? Social media refers to technologies that allow us to construct interactive online communities and share information, pictures, knowledge, opinions, and more.

Health-related information is commonly shared via social media. For instance, you may notice advice and instructional or educational videos on how to eat healthier, be more active, and enhance your mental health. But can using social media improve our health and well-being?

A recent systematic review helps to answer this question by looking at whether interactive social media programs can improve healthy behaviours (such as diet, physical activity, and smoking), physical health (such as weight and heart rate), well-being, and mental health (such as depression) in adults. Interactive social media programs, which allow users to communicate with one another, are compared to non-interactive strategies such as in-person programs, paper-based programs, or nothing (4).

What the research tells us

The interactive social media programs included within the review used platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, and web-based networks or apps that imitate how social media platforms work to deliver programming.

The studies included in the review were found to be of low quality and more research is needed. However, the currently available evidence suggests that, compared to non-interactive strategies, interactive social media programs may help to improve physical activity levels (specifically the number of daily steps), engagement in screening tests, weight loss, and resting heart rate by small amounts, as well as well-being. Unfortunately, there may be little to no effect on diet, tobacco use, or mental health. Additionally, there is considerable uncertainty around the safety of the interactive social media aspect of these programs, as none of the studies assessed if negative side effects occurred (4).

While these results show that social media may be helpful in some areas, it is important to make sure the information and programs you are accessing are from credible sources, such as public health organizations or practitioners. 

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Author Details


  1. Hootsuite. 160+ social media statistics marketers need in 2023. [Internet] 2023. [cited July 2023]. Available from
  2. Kemp, S. Digital 2023: Canada. [Internet] 2023. [cited July 2023]. Available from
  3. Statistics Canada. Economic and social reports Canadians’ assessments of social media in their lives. [Internet] 2021. [cited July 2023].
  4. Petkovic J, Duench S, Trawin J, et al. Behavioural interventions delivered through interactive social media for health behaviour change, health outcomes, and health equity in the adult population. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021; 5(5):CD012932. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012932.pub2.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.