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Social Media for Health Researchers

An introductory guide to tools, methods, and ethical issues.

COVID-19 & Public Health

Researchers have analyzed data from social media outlets to gain a better understanding of how the general public reacted to the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Golder, S., Jefferson, L., McHugh, E., Essex, H., Heathcote, C., Castro Avila, A., Dale, V., Van Der Feltz-Cornelis, C., & Bloor, K. (2022). General practitioners' wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic: Novel methods with social media data. Health Information and Libraries Journal, https://10.1111/hir.12466

Lavorgna, A., Carr, L., & Kingdon, A. (2022). To wear or not to wear? Unpacking the #NoMask discourses and conversations on Twitter. SN Social Sciences, 2(12), 253-9. Epub 2022 Nov 21. https://10.1007/s43545-022-00556-9

Massey, D., Huang, C., Lu, Y., Cohen, A., Oren, Y., Moed, T., Matzner, P., Mahajan, S., Caraballo, C., Kumar, N., Xue, Y., Ding, Q., Dreyer, R., Roy, B., & Krumholz, H. (2021). Engagement With COVID-19 public health measures in the United States: A cross-sectional social media analysis from June to November 2020. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(6), N.PAG. https://10.2196/26655

Matharaarachchi, S., Domaratzki, M., Katz, A., & Muthukumarana, S. (2022). Discovering long COVID symptom patterns: association rule Mining and sentiment analysis in social media tweets. JMIR Formative Research, 6(9), e37984. https://10.2196/37984

Pool, J., Namvar, M., Akhlaghpour, S., & Fatehi, F. (2022). Exploring public opinion about telehealth during COVID-19 by social media analytics. Journal of Telemedicine & Telecare, 28(10), 718-725. https://10.1177/1357633X221122112

Examples of Social Media Analysis in the Literature

This page features examples of published research studies that analyze data from various social media outlets. Please feel free to contact me using the information on the right if you have additional studies that you would like me to highlight here.

Nutrition Studies

There are a large number of studies that highlight the work of nutrition researchers who have used social media data as a tool for understanding eating behavior. Here are just a few examples:

Grantham, J. L., Verishagen, C. L., Whiting, S. J., Henry, C. J., Lieffers, J. R. L., Grantham, J., Verishagen, C., & Lieffers, J. R. (2021). Evaluation of a social media campaign in Saskatchewan to promote healthy eating during the COVID-19 pandemic: social media analysis and qualitative interview study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(7), N.PAG. https://10.2196/27448

Henström, M., Duncanson, K., Collins, C. E., Ashton, L. M., Davidson, E., & Ball, R. (2022). Online reach and engagement of a child nutrition peer-education program (PICNIC): insights from social media and web analytics. BMC Public Health, 22(1), 1-18. https://10.1186/s12889-022-13252-3

Kang, Y., Wang, Y., Zhang, D., & Zhou, L. (2017). The public's opinions on a new school meals policy for childhood obesity prevention in the U.S.: A social media analytics approach. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 103, 83-88. https://10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2017.04.013

Stirling, E., Willcox, J., Ong, K., & Forsyth, A. (2021). Social media analytics in nutrition research: a rapid review of current usage in investigation of dietary behaviours. Public Health Nutrition, 24(6), 1193-1209. https://10.1017/S1368980020005248

Selected Rehabilitation Studies

Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech & language therapists are beginning to use social media data as a tool to help them explore various issues within the profession.

Brunner, M., Hemsley, B., Dann, S., Togher, L., & Palmer, S. (2018). Hashtag #TBI: A content and network data analysis of tweets about traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 32(1), 49-63. https://10.1080/02699052.2017.1403047

Bryant, L., Brunner, M., Power, E., & Hemsley, B. (2021). Content and network analysis of tweets tagged with #aphasia: an emergent community of practice. Aphasiology, 35(8), 1084-1102. https://10.1080/02687038.2020.1770195

Sabus, C., Johns, B., Schultz, N., & Gagnon, K. (2019). Exploration of content and reach of physical therapy-related discussion on twitter. Physical Therapy, 99(8), 1048-1055. https://10.1093/ptj/pzz063

Walsh, W. E. (2018). Investigating public perception of occupational therapy: An environmental scan of three media outlets. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(3), 1-10. https://10.5014/ajot.2018.024513

Health Sciences Librarian

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Kate Silfen
Mugar Memorial Library