Conversations about erectile dysfunction (ED) increased substantially on Twitter between 2015 and 2020, according to a new study.
Researchers report that in 2015, 3,700 Twitter users included the hashtag #erectiledysfunction in their tweets. By June 2020, the number had grown to 22,100 users.
Twitter is a popular social media platform with millions of users all over the world. Using 240-character messages called tweets, users can share content — including links, photos, fleets, lives, and video — across a wide network in real-time.
Over the years, the internet has become a powerful tool for researching health information and communicating with healthcare providers. For this study, researchers investigated the use of Twitter for researching ED.
They focused on a specific hashtag: #erectiledysfunction. A hashtag is a word or phrase that starts with a # symbol. On Twitter, adding this symbol makes the phrase a searchable link. For example, if users click on the hashtag #erectiledysfunction, they will see a listing of all posts using this hashtag.
During the five-year study period, the #erectiledysfunction hashtag appeared in 89,833 tweets by 22,130 users, with an average use of 1.9 tweets per hour. Overall, the hashtag was seen by Twitter users 242,388,630 times.
The research team also identified a group of 100 top influencers using the #erectiledysfunction hashtag. They found that 40% of the tweets came from physicians, 16.4% came from media outlets (such as scientific journals), and 13.6% came from advocacy organizations (such as academic societies).
Only 1% of the top influencers were patients.
Tweets using the #erectiledysfunction hashtag often included words like men, treatment, and causes. Other included hashtags were #ED, #menshealth, and #impotence.
“Our analysis demonstrates that #erectiledysfunction has a significant presence on Twitter with notable engagement from physicians and other prominent healthcare stakeholders,” the authors wrote.
“Interestingly, our data suggest that patients or non-healthcare stakeholders interested in ED have yet to adopt Twitter as a platform for discussion.”
The study was presented in November 2020 at the 21st Annual Fall Scientific Meeting of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America (SMSNA). Its abstract was published in a Journal of Sexual Medicine supplement in March 2021.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Zaila, K.E., et al.
“001 #erectiledysfunction: 5-year Comprehensive Analysis of the Twitter Discussions Associated with Erectile Dysfunction”
(Abstract presented at 21st Annual Fall Scientific Meeting of SMSNA – 2020)