“Prior research suggest that using Facebook can be both beneficial and harmful for well-being,” Explains Barbara Schuster, MSc. Although interaction with other users with the condition could be a beneficial source of social support for patients with psoriasis, use of Facebook can also be mentally straining for patients with psoriasis, as users tend to share only the highlights of their lives. To understand how people with psoriasis use Facebook and to assess potential risks of such use, Schuster and colleagues developed an online survey, the results of which are published in the Journal of The German Society of Dermatology.

The survey was promoted and provided on a large psoriasis information website. Data was collected on participants’ general and disease-related Facebook habits, with questions analyzing frequency and duration of Facebook use, dermatology‐specific quality of life (DLQI), frequency of searching Facebook for disease-related information, quality of disease-related information found, participation in disease-related groups, and whether Facebook helped participants in managing their condition.

Results indicated that 75% of participants used Facebook in the last month, with 57% spending 5 to 30 minutes on the platform daily. Higher DLQI was associated with less time spent on Facebook. Data indicated that of Facebook users aged 60 and older, 92% used the platform to search for disease-related information, whereas only 52% of users aged 30 and younger used the platform as a source for such information. “We found that sharing experiences with other affected individuals seems to help patients cope with their disease,” notes Schuster. “However, the quality of psoriasis-related content on Facebook seems to be insufficient, as only 19% of users thought the platform provided sufficient information. As a consequence, most users seem rather skeptical toward Facebook as a source of disease-related information.”

“Facebook has mostly been neglected in health service research so far, which might be one of the reasons for the lack of high-quality content available,” says Schuster. “We would like physicians to keep in mind that social media can offer more than information to patients with chronic diseases, like social support. Also, we think social media should be accepted and explored as a potential means of delivering healthcare information and services in future healthcare research.”