Feeling sick makes us less social online too

People turn to social media for health information, but they're slow to post their own info.

(Medical Xpress)—When it comes to posting on social media, there are few areas of our lives that are off limits.

We post about eating, working, playing, hunting, quilting – you name it. Just about everything is up for public consumption … except our health.

A new study from BYU finds that while most of us go online regularly for help in diagnosing health issues, very few of us actually post information, questions or experiences on health topics.

"Less than 15 percent of us are posting the health information that most of us are consuming," said Rosemary Thackeray, BYU professor of health science and lead author of the study appearing online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

According to the study, more than 60 percent of Internet users go online for health help, looking for advice, digging up user experiences on and consulting online reviews in hunt of health providers and health care facilities.

Thackeray believes if people were more "social" about health information on social media, the better the information would become.

"If you only have a few people sharing their experience with using a , that's different than 10,000 people doing that," Thackeray said. "If we're really going to use this social media aspect, there needs to be a true collective wisdom of the crowds."

According to data Thackeray and BYU colleagues Ben Crookston and Josh West used from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, three-fourths of people begin their hunt for medical or health information online by using a search engine such as or Yahoo.

By the end of their search, nearly a third have used (Facebook, ) for health- related activities while 41 percent have consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors and health care facilities.

However, only 10 percent of respondents actually posted reviews and 15 percent posted comments, questions or information when it came to health-related info.

"The inherent value of 'social' in social media is not being captured with online health information seeking," Thackeray said. "Social media is still a good source of health information, but I don't think it's ever going to replace providers or traditional sources."

But, the researchers say social media could be more valuable to all parties if more people joined in on the health discussion. Patients could become more empowered and doctors could be more aware of the public discourse around certain medical issues.

The challenge now is how to get more people to contribute health info on social media sites.

"We're just not there yet, but we'll probably get there in the future," Thackeray said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Many in US seek health information online: study

May 12, 2011

Four out of five Internet users have searched for health information online, but the Web is still no substitute for the doctor when it comes to a personal medical issue, said a US study Thursday.

One in four physicians uses social media daily

Dec 10, 2012

A new survey shows that about one in four physicians uses social media daily or multiple times a day to scan or explore medical information, and 14 percent use social media each day to contribute new information, according ...

Recommended for you

CDC: Almost everyone needs a flu shot

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season. "It's really unfortunate ...

Can you train your brain to crave healthy foods?

5 hours ago

The mere sight of a slice of gooey chocolate cake, a cheesy pizza, or a sizzling burger can drive us to eat these foods. In terms of evolution we show preference for high calorie foods as they are an important ...

What doctors say to LGBT teens matters

6 hours ago

When doctors speak to teens about sex and LGBT issues, only about 3 percent of them are doing so in a way that encourages LGBT teens to discuss their sexuality, and Purdue University researchers say other doctors can learn ...

User comments