Young People Anxious over Weight Problems Targeted with Spam

A medical study has revealed that spam offering weight-loss “solutions” is likely to find a receptive audience among young adults concerned about their weight, despite well-publicised warnings about the credibility of the emails.

The study by Joshua Fogel and Sam Shlivko of the Southern Medical Association in the US was published in their official journal. It concluded that “physicians should consider discussing with patients the potential risks of opening and/or purchasing weight-loss products from spam e-mails”.

The researchers asked 200 students in New York colleges – a third of who identified themselves as having a weight problem – about their experience of spam emails concerning weight-loss products.

Some 88 per cent of respondents with weight issues said that they had received spam about weight-loss products in the past 12 months, while only 73 per cent without weight problems had received the spam. Of this 88 per cent, 42 per cent of them admitted to opening the emails, compared to just 18 per cent of the spam recipients without weight issues. And 19 per cent of the 88 per cent had actually bought a weight-loss product advertised via spam – while 5 per cent of those without weight problems had done the same.

The study warned that spam was now a “ubiquitous problem,” with up to a third of all spam emails concerning health and pharmaceutical items aiming to exploit the increase in weight anxieties among young people. Fogel and Shlivko suggested that health care professionals should discuss with their patients the risks of opening spam emails and buying their advertised products.

The pair said that doctors “should emphasize to their patients the importance of working together with a health care professional in coordinating care when considering the use of weight-loss products”.

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