A comparison of information sharing behaviours across 379 health conditions on Twitter



Zhang Z & Ahmed W (2019) A comparison of information sharing behaviours across 379 health conditions on Twitter. International Journal of Public Health, 64 (3), pp. 431-440.

Objectives To compare information sharing of over 379 health conditions on Twitter to uncover trends and patterns of online user activities. Methods We collected 1.5 million tweets generated by over 450,000 Twitter users for 379 health conditions, each of which was quantified using a multivariate model describing engagement, user and content aspects of the data and compared using correlation and network analysis to discover patterns of user activities in these online communities. Results We found a significant imbalance in terms of the size of communities interested in different health conditions, regardless of the seriousness of these conditions. Improving the informativeness of tweets by using, for example, URLs, multimedia and mentions can be important factors in promoting health conditions on Twitter. Using hashtags on the contrary is less effective. Social network analysis revealed similar structures of the discussion found across different health conditions. Conclusions Our study found variance in activity between different health communities on Twitter, and our results are likely to be of interest to public health authorities and officials interested in the potential of Twitter to raise awareness of public health.

Public health; Health conditions; Social media; Twitter; Network analysis; Data science

International Journal of Public Health: Volume 64, Issue 3

FundersNorthumbria University
Publication date30/04/2019
Publication date online26/12/2018
Date accepted by journal23/11/2018
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

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Dr Wasim Ahmed
Dr Wasim Ahmed

Senior Lecturer in Digital Business, Management, Work and Organisation