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Posting About Health Concerns on Facebook, Twitter

Posting About Health Concerns on Facebook, TwitterIf you’re thinking about posting your health or mental health concerns on Facebook or Twitter, you may want to think twice.

According to an article published last week in The LA Times, health insurers will often turn to social networks to check out someone’s story — especially when that person is receiving medical leave or disability payments from an insurer. If you’re filing (or intending to file) a health insurance claim, be careful.

This once-hypothetical scenario is now commonplace, as insurers look for ways to keep cutting costs and payments to what they perceive as people intending to commit fraud against them. In fact, insurance companies don’t just randomly check out a social networking website when a claim comes in — it is now standard practice, according to Peter Foley, vice president of claims administration at the American Insurance Association.

While many of us naively think, “Well, this doesn’t affect me… I would never commit insurance fraud,” this goes way beyond simply insurance fraud. Ordinary people — people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorder — may find themselves being denied their benefits because of a photo uploaded to Facebook. In once case, the photo showed a woman apparently having fun on the beach when she was supposed to be depressed.

The LA Times’ Shan Li has the story…

Struggling with depression, the 30-year-old [Nathalie Blanchard] from Quebec, Canada, took a medical leave in early 2008 from her job as an IBM technician. Soon after, she began receiving monthly disability benefits from her insurer, Manulife Financial Corp.

A year later and without warning, the payments stopped.

A representative of the Toronto insurance company told Blanchard that Manulife used photos of her on Facebook — showing her frolicking at a beach and hanging out at a pub — to determine she was depression-free and able to work, said Tom Lavin, Blanchard’s attorney.

Can clinically depressed people not have fun? Not according to the DSM-IV definition of depression. Nowhere does it state that a person who suffers from major depression cannot experience times where their depression temporarily lifts. Nor does it suggest that a person who is depressed can’t go on vacation and attempt to lift their spirits. Which sometimes happens… but the lift is nearly always temporary. Once a person returns home, the depression sets in again.

In the case mentioned in the article, Ms. Blanchard is suing because apparently the insurance company cut off her benefits without warning and without first talking to her doctor.

Which is even more scary, if true. Imagine that your health or mental health benefits cut off not because of a careful and considered medical review of your health and mental health data… but because of photos you uploaded to Facebook!

The challenge we have today with social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter is that people tend not to always use the best judgment in choosing what to share with others. And even if they do, they may not realize that Facebook’s sometimes-complicated and ever-changing privacy settings may allow the public to view components of your life you thought you had sealed off from public view.

The easiest and safest thing to do is to ensure your Facebook profile is locked up tight — friends only for virtually all of the information you share — and that you pick and choose what to post on any social network. Once posted, something may live a lot longer online than you ever intended. So be mindful and intentional in what you post, thinking about the worst case scenario… “What if a future employer saw this? Or my mom? Or my insurance company?”

Is that being overly conservative, cynical even? Perhaps. But at least I’ll have my insurance.

Read the full article: Insurance fraud and social media: Insurers are scouring social media for evidence of fraud

Posting About Health Concerns on Facebook, Twitter

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Posting About Health Concerns on Facebook, Twitter. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 1 Feb 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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