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A qualitative study exploring what it means to be healthy for young Indigenous Australians and the role of social media in influencing health behaviour

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Authors: Mr Troy Walker, Ms Annika Molenaar & A/Prof Claire Palermo

Issue addressed: This study explored what it means to young Indigenous people to be healthy and how social media influences health behaviours.

Methods: Indigenous people (17-24 years) participated in face-to-face interviews or online Facebook conversations. Discussions were informed by the Integrated Model of Behaviour Change exploring perceptions of self, health and wellbeing, social media use, decision making around health and environmental influences on their health. Interviews and online conversations were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Eighteen young Indigenous Australians participated. Three themes were identified (a) Family and community connection in constructing health beliefs; (b) Individual health-seeking behaviours, mental health status and the importance of physical activity; and (c) peers and others were key influencers of health behaviour on social media.

Conclusions: Social connection and social media may provide platforms for young Indigenous people to facilitate exchange of culturally relevant information and encourage behaviour change alongside family, peer and community support.

So what?: Unless accompanied with environmental changes, young adults may struggle to assert their individual agency and realise healthful behaviours, therefore strategies to change the environment are urgently required.