Poll Shows More Consumers Using Social Media for Health Information

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A poll conducted by consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that one-third of Americans use social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to obtain information about health and wellness [1]. Respondents reported using social media resources to self-diagnose, get information about prescription drugs, and check up on doctors’ and hospitals’ reputations.

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As might be expected, the youngest adults were most likely to be willing to obtain or share health information online. Eighty-percent of adults age 18-24 reported a willingness to share personal health information via social media, and 90% of this same group said they’d trust their social media contacts as sources of accurate health information. Older adults were less likely to share health information online, with less than half of those aged 45-65 indicating a willingness to do so.

While sourcing friends and acquaintances on the Internet may be a good way to find a doctor or identify the best insurance plan — and indeed, 41 and 32% of respondents, respectively, stated that they used social media for these purposes — the report also revealed that 34% of polled consumers would allow social media contacts to influence their decision to take a medication or undergo a procedure. Unfortunately, however, much of the information available from social media contacts regarding health and medicine is anecdotal, erroneous, or both. Case in point: the nearly epidemic fear of vaccines of the last several years has been propagated to a significant degree through the Internet and social media.

Perhaps, however, as consumers indicate an increasing desire to use the web for health information, healthcare practitioners will respond by making accurate health information increasingly available online to meet that demand.

References

  1. Social media “likes” healthcare:¬†From marketing to social business. PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute. 2012 April
About the Author

Kirstin Hendrickson is a science journalist and faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry.