Healthcare Marketing: Facebook More Addictive Than Alcohol and Tobacco?

Research has shown it’s harder to resist the urge to check social media sites like Facebook and Twitter than the urge to drink or smoke.

Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business conducted research on 205 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 over 14 days to determine the desires they felt throughout the day and how strong those urges were. Emil Protalinski reported the results on

Despite their addictive properties, alcohol, tobacco and coffee prompted much lower levels of desire than the desire to check social media sites.   Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Wilhelm Hofman surmises that the desire for social media is so much harder to resist because of its high availability and because it feels like it doesn’t cost much to participate.  Cigarettes and alcohol costs more (monetarily) but the frequent use of social media, although it feels like it’s free, steals an abundance of time from a person.

The research also indicated that throughout the day willpower decreases.  Resisting a particular urge frequently or recently increases the chance of giving in the next time.  This is because our constant efforts to resist temptation sap our willpower, which make cravings even stronger.

It’s interesting to note the urge for social media took a back seat to the urge for sex and sleep, which were the two strongest desires.  But the urge to keep on top of social media networks was harder to resist than either sex or sleep.

That might explain these statistics:

  • Facebook accounts for 1 in every 5 pageviews
  • Facebook has over 845 million users
  • Facebook accounts for 1 in every 7 online minutes
  • Facebook to pass 1 billion users in August 2012

For healthcare marketers, the research just reinforces the strength and power of social media.  It is so pervasive within our culture.  People are accessing social media networks and apparently can’t resist the urge to do so.  As marketers, we need to have a presence there and engage in the socialization. Creating and building relationships.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *