Introduction: The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide, presenting a significant public health concern. Weight loss medications can assist individuals in managing obesity, especially those who struggle to lose weight through lifestyle changes alone. However, the use of social media for health information purposes is also on the rise, presenting both opportunities and challenges. This study aimed to explore the impact of social media on the use of weight loss medications in Saudi Arabia.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among social media users aged 18 years and older. The survey collected data on demographic characteristics, social media usage for weight loss, attitudes towards weight loss medications, and personal experiences with these medications.
Results: The study included 295 social media users, with a slightly higher proportion of female participants and middle- aged individuals. Over 62.9% of participants reported using social media for more than three hours daily, and 42.4% searched for weight loss medications on social media platforms. Among participants who had used weight loss medications, 39% did so without a medical prescription, obtaining the medication through pharmacies or relatives/friends. The main motivation for using weight loss medications was the desire to lose weight, and a significant percentage of participants experienced adverse events from using weight loss medications.
Discussion: This study highlights the potential influence of social media on users’ health-related decisions, including the use of weight loss medications. However, the high prevalence of self-medication among participants raises significant public health concerns. It is crucial to implement more control on the dispensing of weight loss medications to ensure their safe and appropriate use. Healthcare providers should play a more active role in guiding and supporting their patients in making informed decisions about weight management strategies.
Conclusion: This study provides valuable insights into the impact of social media on weight loss medication use in Saudi Arabia. The findings emphasize the need for accurate and evidence-based health information on social media platforms and the promotion of responsible medication use. Furthermore, this study highlights the importance of addressing the issue of self-medication and the need for proper medical supervision when using weight loss medications. Healthcare providers and public health policymakers should engage with social media users to promote safe and effective weight management strategies.
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