Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award

Fall 8-11-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Gabriel Kuperminc

Second Advisor

Dr. John Horgan

Third Advisor

Dr. Jason Braasch


In the age of online connectivity, understanding how health information circulates in social media communities is vital to navigate online health complexities, fight misinformation, and make informed decisions. This study examines the impact of topic belief groups and source information on the sharing process regarding dietary topics like vegetarianism and meat-eating. 129 undergraduate students from two US universities participated in this study. After assessing their prior topic beliefs about vegetarianism and health, participants were randomly assigned to a 'Sources Present' or 'Sources Absent' condition. Subsequently, they read 30 text excerpts regarding vegetarianism and meat consumption, rated their likelihood of sharing each information on social media and provided open-ended justifications for their choices. Quantitatively, belief groups significantly influenced pro-meat sharing, but not pro-vegetarian sharing, with no notable interaction between belief group and source presence. Qualitatively, nine themes emerged influencing sharing decisions, with the prevalence of some themes varying based on source conditions. By exploring these factors, this study seeks to enhance digital health literacy, foster an informed and engaged online society, improve public health communication, and combat misinformation, leading to improved health outcomes in the digital era and beyond.


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