Understanding young adults’ online engagement and health experiences in the age of social media: exploring diabetes and common mental health disorders

Fergie, Gillian M. (2015) Understanding young adults’ online engagement and health experiences in the age of social media: exploring diabetes and common mental health disorders. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Production and consumption of text, image and video content about both diabetes and common mental health disorders (CMHDs), by individuals and organisations, has become commonplace since the widespread adoption of social media. Despite the increasing importance of these online spaces for health-related discussion few studies have fully explored people’s experiences of drawing on social media content around either diabetes or CMHDs. The aim of this study was to explore the multiple ways young adults engage with health-related content online and develop an understanding of how social media are used for health information and communication. A further aim was to explore the areas of convergence and divergence between professional producers’ perspectives on online resources about diabetes and CMHDs and prospective users’ perspectives. To explore these issues, a qualitative study was developed. Forty young adults, aged between 18 and 30 years, and six professional producers took part in semi-structured interviews. The key findings of the study reflect the increasing prominence of health-related user-generated content online. While continued reliance on search-engines for locating relevant content was evident, some participants discussed accessing health-related content as part of their everyday social media activity. Further, participants’ perceptions and experiences of support from family, friends and formal health services appeared to relate to their online practices: those who described least supportive resources offline discussed engaging most actively in production and consumption of health-related user-generated content. Participants also discussed what limited their production of health-related content, suggesting that production of content related to diabetes or CMHDs could compromise their presentation of self online. Disjunctures were evident between the perspectives of producers and potential users, with producers prioritising dissemination of generic information and young adults emphasising the consumption of tailored content. The findings of the study suggest key opportunities for exploiting the potential of social media to engage with users but highlight potential barriers to some individuals’ engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: social media, information seeking, internet, diabetes, common mental health disorders, qualitative
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences
Funder's Name: UNSPECIFIED
Supervisor's Name: Hilton, Dr Shona and Hunt, Prof Kate
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Gillian Fergie
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6362
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2015 14:12
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2015 14:09
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/6362

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