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Diseases and Emotions: An Automated Content Analysis of Health Narratives in Inquiries to an Online Health Consultation Service


Kessler, Sabrina Heike; Schmidt-Weitmann, Sabine (2021). Diseases and Emotions: An Automated Content Analysis of Health Narratives in Inquiries to an Online Health Consultation Service. Health Communication, 36(2):226-235.

Abstract

More and more individuals use the internet as a health-related information source for medical decisions. Online consultation services provide the users a safe, time- and place-independent, and anonymous space to ask health-related questions combined with related individual health narratives and expressed emotions. The study ofemotions in health narratives and medical communication is still in the early stages. We investigate the inquirers of an online consultation service themselves and thecontent of their inquiries in relation to the health narratives, the queried diseases, and the emotions that are expressed. An automated content analysis of all online inquiriesto the University Hospital Zurich from 09/08/1999 to 07/06/2018 was conducted (N =55,476 inquiries). The majority of the inquirers were female. Over time, significantly more men and more older adults began making inquiries. A wide variety of medical inquiries were submitted to the service, representing all categories of the internationalstatistical classification of diseases and related health problems. The diseases inonline inquiries correlate with the statistical emergence of diseases in Switzerland.Negative emotions like fear, worry, and shame were most frequently expressed in thehealth narratives. This study confirms the close connection between health narratives and emotions. The online consultation service offers an anonymous space for the users where they can talk about diseases that are stigmatized and often cause shame.Accordingly, online consultation services can strengthen patient empowerment and health literacy through the individual provision of health information.

Abstract

More and more individuals use the internet as a health-related information source for medical decisions. Online consultation services provide the users a safe, time- and place-independent, and anonymous space to ask health-related questions combined with related individual health narratives and expressed emotions. The study ofemotions in health narratives and medical communication is still in the early stages. We investigate the inquirers of an online consultation service themselves and thecontent of their inquiries in relation to the health narratives, the queried diseases, and the emotions that are expressed. An automated content analysis of all online inquiriesto the University Hospital Zurich from 09/08/1999 to 07/06/2018 was conducted (N =55,476 inquiries). The majority of the inquirers were female. Over time, significantly more men and more older adults began making inquiries. A wide variety of medical inquiries were submitted to the service, representing all categories of the internationalstatistical classification of diseases and related health problems. The diseases inonline inquiries correlate with the statistical emergence of diseases in Switzerland.Negative emotions like fear, worry, and shame were most frequently expressed in thehealth narratives. This study confirms the close connection between health narratives and emotions. The online consultation service offers an anonymous space for the users where they can talk about diseases that are stigmatized and often cause shame.Accordingly, online consultation services can strengthen patient empowerment and health literacy through the individual provision of health information.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Institute of General Practice
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Health (social science)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Uncontrolled Keywords:Communication, Health (social science)
Language:English
Date:28 January 2021
Deposited On:13 Jan 2020 10:14
Last Modified:28 Dec 2020 02:01
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1041-0236
Additional Information:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Health Communication on 2019, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1080/10410236.2019.1673950
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2019.1673950

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