July 01, 2021

Health on social media: Information and support

A hashtag — a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound symbol (#) — is used on many social media sites to identify digital content on a specific topic. While the range of hashtag topics is broad, their usefulness in developing health awareness and support has received increasing attention.

A study from the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews looked at the use of a particular hashtag representing breast cancer social media (#BCSM), to tag chats, requests for support and other relevant content. In its first year of use, the hashtag was posted (tweeted) 602 times, while in its final year studied, that number had grown to nearly 20,000 posts. Over eight years, the hashtag was used by over 75,000 people, resulting in an estimated reach of 4.22 billion views (impressions). An increasing number of doctors and other health professionals now use the hashtag to contribute to discussions on care options, clinical trials and recent research.

The study's authors list many benefits to online support. Participation in support groups can provide a sense of community and may better prepare you to work with your health care team. Online interactions may overcome some barriers to in-person group participation, including time conflicts, a lack of available groups or the inability to gather during the pandemic.

Mayo Clinic recognizes the value of online support for health challenges. Its online community, Mayo Clinic Connect, encourages members to share their experiences, ask questions and find answers. Join at https://connect.MayoClinic.org. The blog page "Aging & Health: Take Charge"...