Facebook as a Platform for Health Information and Communication: A Case Study of a Diabetes Group

  • Yan ZhangEmail author
  • Dan He
  • Yoonmo Sang
Original Paper


As one of the largest social networking sites in the world, Facebook holds a great potential for promoting health. In this exploratory study, we analyzed 1352 messages posted to an active Facebook diabetes group to identify the characteristics of the group. The results revealed that the group was international in nature. Users overcame language barriers to communicate with people with similar conditions. Users’ interactions were structured around information, emotion, and community building. They exchanged medical and lifestyle information, and highly valued their peers’ personal experiences, opinions, and advice. They also demonstrated a positive attitude toward the reality of living with diabetes and generously provided encouragements and affirmations to one another. Great efforts were made to maintain the proper operation of the community by the administrator and a group of core members. As a result, the group was shaped as a social network where peer users share social support, cultivate companionship, and exert social influence. Based on the results, we discussed future directions for research of health communities in a highly connected world.


Facebook Diabetes group Online health communities Consumer health informatics 



This work was supported in part by the Alumni Fellowship from the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of InformationUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.College of CommunicationUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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