Feeling Anxious? There's a Network for That

There are social networks targeting people dealing with a whole range of ailments, physical and psychological, and it certainly makes sense to create a forum (separate from Facebook and Twitter) for people to discuss sensitive topics like health problems -- something many would probably prefer to do anonymously, with a sympathetic and supportive audience, and out of the general public eye.  This week brings the launch of another -- AnxietySocialNet, for people suffering from anxiety.

ASN was created to help sufferers of agoraphobia, social anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, or any other form of anxiety disorder, which the National Institute of Mental Health estimates affect some 40 million American adults. Like social nets devoted to other health topics, users can find information and network with other people with the condition -- something which can be especially tough for people suffering from social anxiety. ASN offers users support groups, chat, online diaries, and Q&A message boards, with content sharing for pictures, articles, and video.

People with health conditions seem to be fairly gung ho about using online social networks to find information and get support, but big health organizations are lagging behind in social media adoption. Last week I wrote about a study from Pricewaterhouse Cooper,based on a social media survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers and 124 members of the eHealth Initiative (eHI), as well as activity at health forums and social media pages maintained by big health care orgs. Comparing these community groups to the social media presences of ten major healthcare companies, PwC found the community sites had 24 times more social media activity than the corporate counterparts.

Asked how social media information might influence them, 45% of respondents in the PwC survey said that it would influence their decision to get a second opinion; 41% that it would affect their choice of doctor or medical facility; 34% that it would affect their decision about a medication; and 32% that it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan. Inevitably, younger consumers are taking to social media for health care faster than older people. Over 80% of respondents ages 18-24 said they would share health-related information through social media channels, compared to just 45% of adults ages 45-64.

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