BackgroundDementia is a prevalent disorder among adults and often subjects an individual and his or her family. Social media websites may serve as a platform to raise awareness for dementia and allow researchers to explore health-related data.
ObjectiveThe objective of this study was to utilize Twitter, a social media website, to examine the content and location of tweets containing the keyword "dementia" to better understand the reasons why individuals discuss dementia. We adopted an approach that analyzed user location, user category, and tweet content subcategories to classify large publicly available datasets.
MethodsA total of 398 tweets were collected using the Twitter search application programming interface with the keyword "dementia," circulated between January and February 2018. Twitter users were categorized into 4 categories: general public, health care field, advocacy organization, and public broadcasting. Tweets posted by "general public" users were further subcategorized into 5 categories: mental health advocate, affected persons, stigmatization, marketing, and other. Placement into the categories was done through thematic analysis.
ResultsA total of 398 tweets were written by 359 different screen names from 28 different countries. The largest number of Twitter users were from the United States and the United Kingdom. Within the United States, the largest number of users were from California and Texas. The majority (281/398, 70.6%) of Twitter users were categorized into the "general public" category. Content analysis of tweets from the "general public" category revealed stigmatization (113/281, 40.2%) and mental health advocacy (102/281, 36.3%) as the most common themes. Among tweets from California and Texas, California had more stigmatization tweets, while Texas had more mental health advocacy tweets.
ConclusionsThemes from the content of tweets highlight the mixture of the political climate and the supportive network present on Twitter. The ability to use Twitter to combat stigma and raise awareness of mental health indicates the benefits that can potentially be facilitated via the platform, but negative stigmatizing tweets may interfere with the effectiveness of this social support.