When it comes to mental health issues, social media is underutilized

"Oversharing" has become a commonplace word used to describe the constant social media updates we see from friends, family or colleagues on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.

But when it comes to sharing information about health issues, a new study found that very few of us are actually utilizing social media in the ways we could.

Do we need to be more social when it comes to mental health?

Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) found that while most of us turn to the Internet for help in diagnosing health problems, we don't often ask one another questions, describe our experiences or share our struggles about these issues online.

“Less than 15 percent of us are posting the health information that most of us are consuming,” Rosemary Thackeray, BYU professor of health science and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

More sharing = better information?

According to the study, only 60 percent of Internet users seek out user reviews on health care facilities or resources like social media health communities. Thackeray says that if more people were sharing their experiences, the quality of information would improve.

“If you only have a few people sharing their experience with using a painkiller, 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.”

Only about 10 percent of people post reviews about health-related information or products, and only 15 percent post comments in social media settings, the study found.

“The inherent value of ‘social’ in social media is not being captured with online health information seeking,” Thackeray said.

The study is published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Source: BYU

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