This article was originally published here
JMIR Perioper Med. 2021 Nov 1;4(2):e29390. doi: 10.2196/29390.
BACKGROUND: The majority of American adults search for health and illness information on the internet. However, the quality and accuracy of this information are notoriously variable. With the advent of social media, US individuals have increasingly shared their own health and illness experiences, including those related to bariatric surgery, on social media platforms. Previous research has found that peer-to-peer requesting and giving of advice related to bariatric surgery on social media is common, that such advice is often presented in stark terms, and that the advice may not reflect patient standards of care. These previous investigations have helped to map bariatric surgery content on Facebook and YouTube.
OBJECTIVE: This objective of this study was to document and compare weight loss surgery (WLS)-related content on Instagram in the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic and 1 year later.
METHODS: We analyzed a total of 300 Instagram posts (50 posts per week for 3 consecutive weeks in late February and early March in both 2020 and 2021) uploaded using the hashtag #wls. Descriptive statistics were reported, and independent 1-tailed chi-square tests were used to determine if a post’s publication year statistically affected its inclusion of a particular type of content.
RESULTS: Overall, advice giving and personal responsibility for outcomes were emphasized by WLS posters on Instagram. However, social support was less emphasized. The safety, challenges, and risks associated with WLS were rarely discussed. The majority of posts did not contain references to facts from reputable medical sources. Posts published in 2021 were more likely to mention stress/hardships of living with WLS (45/150, 30%, vs 29/150, 19.3%; P=.03); however, those published in 2020 more often identified the importance of ongoing support for WLS success (35/150, 23.3%, vs 16/150, 10.7%; P=.004).
CONCLUSIONS: Given that bariatric patients have low rates of postoperative follow-up, yet post-operative care and yet support are associated with improved health and weight loss outcomes, and given that health content on the web is of mixed accuracy, bariatric professionals may wish to consider including an online support forum moderated by a professional as a routine part of postoperative care. Doing so may not only improve follow-up rates but may offer providers the opportunity to counter inaccuracies encountered on social media.
PMID:34723828 | DOI:10.2196/29390