Young adults (YA) are in a critical stage of life for the encouragement of healthy behaviours such as healthy eating and exercising. This research explored Australian YA values and perceptions related to health, healthy behaviours and health promotion efforts. This qualitative analysis involved n = 166, Australian 18-24 year-olds recruited through a market research field house. Participants (63% currently studying at tertiary level) engaged in a facilitated in-depth online conversation around health and healthy eating over four weeks. Leximancer™ and manual inductive thematic coding were utilised for analysis via the lens of emerging adulthood and health communication theories. Health was seen as multi-faceted, with particular importance placed on mental health and exercise. Some participants focussed on physical appearance, often fuelled by comparison to others. Many believed that at their age and health status, adopting health-enhancing behaviours without short-term tangible benefits was not a priority. Participants did not prioritise health-enhancing behaviours due to barriers such as a perceived lack of money, knowledge and time often due to studying or working and perceived effort. Strategies they proposed to encourage healthy eating included: incentivising healthy food; quick and affordable healthy recipes; and communicating the short-term tangible benefits of healthy behaviours. There is a need for focussed health messaging that address the needs and desires of YA and directly address the barriers they face.
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