Home » News » Twitter Users Share Personal Diabetic Information
Twitter Users Share Personal Diabetic Information

Twitter Users Share Personal Diabetic Information

New research of Twitter hashtags associated with diabetes suggest the social media service is being used for communication on personal health.

The study, led by Jenine Harris, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, provides new insights about spreading health information through social media.

Harris and colleagues looked at the hashtag #diabetes and its interaction with two Twitter measures of engagement, retweeting, and favoriting.

The study found retweeting and favoriting was significantly lower for tweets about the number or percentage of people with diabetes, while favoriting was higher for tweets about health problems associated with diabetes.

“This may indicate that Twitter users are engaging with health information specific to their personal health situation, but not with general information,” said Harris, lead author of the study, “Diabetes Topics Associated With Engagement on Twitter.”

The study has been published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Researchers took a random sample of 100 tweets with the hashtag #diabetes from each day during a constructed week and used crowdsourcing to classify topics and user types.

Crowdsourcing through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform was used to classify tweets into nine topic categories and their senders into three Twitter-user categories. Tweet and Twitter-user characteristics were then associated with favoriting and retweeting.

Harris and her team found that the most common tweet topics were medical and nonmedical resources for diabetes.

Tweets that included information about diabetes-related health problems were positively and significantly associated with engagement.

Tweets about diabetes prevalence, nonmedical resources for diabetes, and jokes or sarcasm about diabetes were significantly negatively associated with engagement.

“The widespread use of social media to find health information, and the potential for social media engagement to influence health behavior, presents an opportunity to better understand engagement with diabetes information online,” Harris said.

“Public health professionals working in diabetes and other areas may wish to consider how Twitter topics influence engagement,” she said.

“Tweet strategies often include guidance on features to include in a tweet, tweet timing, and other nontopical strategies for increasing engagement.

“However, our results demonstrate that, controlling for tweet and tweet-sender characteristics, tweet topic is influential in whether a tweet is favorited or retweeted,” Harris said.

Source: Washington University, St. Louis

Twitter Users Share Personal Diabetic Information

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Twitter Users Share Personal Diabetic Information. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 15 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.