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The More Social You Are, the Healthier You Can Be

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The survey found that a conservative 30 percent of those who had discussed health information online have changed a health behavior, such as a change in diet or fitness, as a result (image: HealthyShare Facebook App).

GE Healthcare, with the help of an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive, recently gained more insight on whether or not social media, online communities, message boards and/or forums can encourage improved health behavior. During the same timeframe, the company also convened a panel of global experts through a virtual roundtable to discuss how social networking can best improve health. The collective results show that engagement is notable but there’s work to do to convert conversations into changes in behavior.

The survey found out that 26 percent of U.S. online adults have discussed health information online—through social media, online communities, message boards or forums—in the past 12 months. It also found that a conservative 30 percent of those who had discussed health information online have changed a health behavior, such as a change in diet or fitness, as a result.

According to the survey, many online adults agreed that others knowing about their diet, health and fitness, and/or specific medical condition(s) is the top concern to discussing health information online (46 percent).

However, during the GE Healthcare virtual roundtable on social networking in health, held in October 2012, actively followed on Twitter, the panel of global experts stressed that accuracy of information should be even more top of mind for consumers (vs. privacy). One of the panelists, Dr. Bernie Hogan of the Oxford Internet Institute, explains, “Perhaps most worrying is the fact that the validity of the information (on the internet) is not a prerequisite for promoting the information.”

The roundtable panelists—a group of academic, physician and communications experts—also agreed and outlined that the more social you are, the more likely you are to achieve your health goals using social networking sites to support you. Other variables like trust, a grassroots approach, and the overload of information disseminated online, were also factored in during the discussion.

“We are just starting to tap into the power of social media and its ability to change health behaviors,” said Jeff DeMarrais, chief communications officer at GE Healthcare. “There’s much opportunity ahead.”

The Company has shared all the results extracted from the survey in a recent press release. Research methodology can be found in the release, as well.

What about you? Do you engage in health conversations online? Why? Leave your thoughts in the comments.