Aging 2.0: Health Information about Dementia on Twitter

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Abstract

Online social media is widespread, easily accessible and attracts a global audience with a widening demographic. As a large proportion of adults now seek health information online and through social media applications, communication about health has become increasingly interactive and dynamic. Online health information has the potential to significantly impact public health, especially as the population gets older and the prevalence of dementia increases. However, little is known about how information pertaining to age-associated diseases is disseminated on popular social media platforms. To fill this knowledge gap, we examined empirically: (i) who is using social media to share information about dementia, (ii) what sources of information about dementia are promoted, and (iii) which dementia themes dominate the discussion. We data-mined the microblogging platform Twitter for content containing dementia-related keywords for a period of 24 hours and retrieved over 9,200 tweets. A coding guide was developed and content analysis conducted on a random sample (10%), and on a subsample from top users' tweets to assess impact. We found that a majority of tweets contained a link to a third party site rather than personal information, and these links redirected mainly to news sites and health information sites. As well, a large number of tweets discussed recent research findings related to the prediction and risk management of Alzheimer's disease. The results highlight the need for the dementia research community to harness the reach of this medium and its potential as a tool for multidirectional engagement. © 2013 Robillard et al.

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Robillard, J. M., Johnson, T. W., Hennessey, C., Beattie, B. L., & Illes, J. (2013). Aging 2.0: Health Information about Dementia on Twitter. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069861

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