Health information on social media helps mitigate Crohn's disease symptoms and improves patients' clinical course

Junzhang Zhao, Hongxing Han, Bu Zhong*, Wenjing Xie, Ying Chen, Min Zhi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


As the general public rely more on social media for accessing health information, it is important to investigate how patients with complex chronic diseases use social media for symptom management. Guided by social cognitive theory, this study analyzes Crohn's disease patients' use of health information and its impact on their clinical course. The results show that health information on social media had provided the patients significant informational, emotional, and peer support, which mediated their treatment understanding, symptom management, and trust in doctors. When their symptoms went worse, the patients reported obtaining more support from social media groups, leading to better treatment understanding. A better treatment understanding resulted in more trust in doctors. But using social media groups that were not monitored by physicians reduced their trust in doctors. Initial evidence shows that health information could benefit patients like a complementary medical intervention. As an exploratory study, the results should be interpreted with caution as some findings may not be generalized to all complex chronic disease patients. This endorses the importance of studying patients' health information processing on social media as part of the effort for improving chronic illness care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106588
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Complex chronic disease
  • Crohn's disease
  • Health information processing
  • Social media
  • Symptom management
  • Trust in doctor


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