MANUSCRIPT: Correlates of health-related social media use among adults
Sixty percent of Internet users report using the Internet to look for health information. Social media sites are emerging as a potential source for online health information. However, little is known about how people use social media for such purposes.
The purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) to establish the frequency of various types of online health-seeking behaviors, and (2) to identify correlates of 2 health-related online activities, social networking sites (SNS) for health-related activities and consulting online user-generated content for answers about health care providers, health facilities, or medical treatment.
The study consisted of a telephone survey of 1745 adults who reported going online to look for health-related information. Four subscales were created to measure use of online resources for (1) using SNS for health-related activities; (2) consulting online rankings and reviews of doctors, hospitals or medical facilities, and drugs or medical treatments; (3) posting a review online of doctors, hospitals or medical facilities, and drugs or medical treatments, and (4) posting a comment or question about health or medical issues on various social media. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed.
Respondents consulted online rankings or reviews (41.15%), used SNS for health (31.58%), posted reviews (9.9%1), and posted a comment, question, or information (15.19%). Respondents with a chronic disease were nearly twice as likely to consult online rankings (odds ratio [OR] 2.09, 95% CI 1.66-2.63, P<.001). Lower odds of consulting online reviews were associated with less formal education (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.37-0.65, P<.001) and being male (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.57-0.87, P<.001). Respondents with higher incomes were 1.5 times as likely to consult online rankings or reviews (OR 1.49, 95% CI 0.10-2.24, P=.05), than respondents with a regular provider (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.52-2.78, P<.001), or living in an urban/suburban location (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.17-2.22, P<.001). Older respondents were less likely to use SNS for health-related activities (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.95-0.97, P<.001), as were males (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.56-0.87, P<.001), whereas respondents with a regular provider had nearly twice the likelihood of using SNS for health-related activities (OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.43-2.52, P<.001).
People are using social media for seeking health information. However, individuals are more likely to consume information than they are to contribute to the dialog. The inherent value of “social” in social media is not being captured with online health information seeking. People with a regular health care provider, chronic disease, and those in younger age groups are more likely to consult online rankings and reviews and use SNS for health-related activities.