Medical and Health-related Misinformation on Social Media: Analysis of the Scientific Literature

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Dec 20. doi: 10.2196/28152. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Social media has been extensively used for the communication of health-related information and consecutively for the potential spread of medical misinformation. Conventional systematic reviews have been published on this topic to identify original articles and to summarize their methodological approaches and themes. A bibliometric study could complement their findings, for instance, by evaluating the geographical distribution of the publications and if they were well cited and disseminated in high impact journals.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study was to perform a bibliometric analysis of the current literature to discover the prevalent trends and topics related to medical misinformation on social media.

METHODS: Web of Science Core Collection electronic database was accessed to identify relevant papers with the following search string: ALL=(misinformati* OR “wrong informati*” OR disinformati* OR “misleading informati*” OR “fake news*”) AND ALL=(medic* OR illness* OR disease* OR health* OR pharma* OR drug* OR therap*) AND ALL=(“social media*” OR Facebook* OR Twitter* OR Instagram* OR YouTube* OR Weibo* OR Whatsapp* OR Reddit* OR TikTok* OR WeChat*). Full records were exported to a bibliometric software, VOSviewer, to link bibliographic information with citation data. A term map and keyword maps were created to illustrate recurring terms and keywords.

RESULTS: Based on the analysis of 529 papers on medical and health-related misinformation on social media, we found that the most popularly investigated social media platforms were Twitter (90), YouTube (67), and Facebook (57). Articles targeting these three platforms also had higher citations per paper (>13.7) than articles covering other social media platforms (Instagram, Weibo, Whatsapp, Reddit, and WeChat; <8.7). Moreover, social media platform-specific papers accounted for 44% of all identified publications. Investigations on these platforms had different foci. Topic preference for Twitter-based research was the investigation of cyberchondria and hypochondriasis, YouTube-based research explored tobacco smoking, whereas Facebook-based research studied vaccine hesitancy related to autism. COVID-19 was a common topic investigated across all platforms. Overall, the United States had contributions to half of all identified papers, and 80% of the top ten most productive institutions were based in this country. The identified papers were mostly published in journals of the categories public environmental and occupational health, communication, health care sciences services, medical informatics, and medicine general internal, with the top journal being the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a significant platform-specific topics preference for social media investigations on medical misinformation. With a large population of internet users from China, it may be reasonably expected that Weibo, WeChat, TikTok (and its Chinese version Douyin) would become more investigated in future studies. Currently these platforms present research gaps that leave their usage and information disseminated warranting further evaluation. Future studies should also include social platforms targeting non-English users to provide a wider global perspective.

PMID:34951864 | DOI:10.2196/28152

Full Text Link: Read More

Generated by Feedzy