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Abstract

The percentage of obese individuals in the population has increased exponentially over the last decade, making obesity a phenomenon of significant global concern. Individual behaviors, preferences and lifestyle choices are subject to social and environmental influences and social networks have been identified as a key contributor to the global obesity epidemic. Numerous empirical studies have found a relationship between dimensions of social capital, well-being and population health. It is the thesis of this article that social capital in online social networks might be similarly associated. Addressing previously identified gaps in the literature, our conceptual model enables the analysis of the relationships between the structure and content of an individual’s online social network, the resulting opportunities and limitations to accessing resources and his or her health-related behaviors and body weight is introduced. Moreover, the model incorporates potential social capital as a special type of social capital in online social networks and uses network-based measures instead of self-reported data. Additionally, literature-based hypotheses discussing the relationships between the constructs of the model are presented. Establishing profound theoretical groundwork, this article encourages future research crossing the boundaries between information systems, health informatics and sociology. This study concludes by proposing a new Facebook e-health application to collect longitudinal data using the aforementioned conceptual model in order to explore the presented ideas further.

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