The Internet, Social Media, and Health Decision-Making

  • Amanda L. Graham
  • Caroline O. Cobb
  • Nathan K. Cobb


The Internet has fundamentally changed healthcare and health decision-making. For patients like JoAnne struggling to make sense of a new diagnosis, the Internet provides a wealth of information on everything from the etiology of disease to its genetic underpinnings, details on its manifestation and symptom progression, and effective treatments. An encyclopedic amount of information is available literally with just a few clicks of the keyboard. There are thousands of health information websites from hospitals and hospital systems, HMOs, federal and state government agencies, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, pharmaceutical companies and other commercial entities, and research institutes, to name just a few. And it is not just text-based information: there are photos and videos and bar charts and graphs for every possible medical condition one can name. There are interactive symptom checkers, pill identification tools, body mass calculators, quizzes and assessments, and even games for health. With this dizzying array of informational resources, it might be easy to envision personal health decisions being made in isolation, by individuals sitting alone in front of their computer, parsing through a massive amount of information. However, available data suggests that even with the vast amount of information available online, people appear to make decisions the way they always have—in the context of social relations.


Social media Internet Health behavior change Health decision-making 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda L. Graham
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caroline O. Cobb
    • 1
  • Nathan K. Cobb
    • 3
  1. 1.Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies, Truth InitiativeWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of OncologyGeorgetown University Medical Center / Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer CenterWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of MedicineGeorgetown University Medical CenterWashingtonUSA

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