Consumer health information seeking in social media: a literature review

Health Info Libr J. 2017 Dec;34(4):268-283. doi: 10.1111/hir.12192. Epub 2017 Oct 17.


Objective: The objective of this literature review was to summarise current research regarding how consumers seek health-related information from social media. Primarily, we hope to reveal characteristics of existing studies investigating the health topics that consumers have discussed in social media, ascertaining the roles social media have played in consumers' information-seeking processes and discussing the potential benefits and concerns of accessing consumer health information in social media.

Methods: The Web of Science Core Collection database was searched for existing literature on consumer health information seeking in social media. The search returned 214 articles, of which 21 met the eligibility criteria following review of full-text documents.

Conclusion: Between 2011 and 2016, twenty-one studies published explored various topics related to consumer information seeking in social media. These ranged from online discussions on specific diseases (e.g. diabetes) to public health concerns (e.g. pesticide residues). Consumers' information needs vary depending on the health issues of interest. Benefits of health seeking on social media, in addition to filling a need for health information, include the social and emotional support health consumers gain from peer-to-peer interactions. These benefits, however, are tempered by concerns of information quality and authority and lead to decreased consumer engagement.

Keywords: consumer health information; health information needs; information-seeking behaviour; social media.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Health Information / methods
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*