Sharing sensitive health information through social media in the Arab world

Eman Asiri, Mohamed Khalifa, Syed Abdul Shabir, Md Nassif Hossain, Usman Iqbal, Mowafa Househ*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Sharing daily activities on social media has become a part of our lifestyle, but little is known about sharing sensitive health information in the Arab world. Objective: The objective of this study is to explore how social media users in the Arab world share sensitive health information through Facebook. Design: A retrospective qualitative analysis was used in the study. Settings and participants: A total of 110 Facebook groups, related to HIV, sickle cell and depression were screened between 5 June and 1 December 2014. Results: Forty four Facebook groups met the inclusion criteria. 28 471 posts were extracted, of which 649 met inclusion criteria. Forty two percent of health information exchanged were related to HIV, 34% to depression and 24% to sickle cell diseases. The majority of postings were from Egypt 21.1%, Saudi Arabia 20%, Algeria 10% and Libya 9.2%. Male posts were 54.2% while 45.8% were posted by females. Individuals utilized Facebook groups to share personal experiences of their disease 31%, in addition to being used for seeking queries 13.6%, offering explicit advice 8.3%, reporting signs and symptoms of the disease 7.3% and posting their communication with the health-care provider 6.6%. Conclusions: Users in the Arab world use social media to exchange sensitive health information, which could have serious implications regarding the privacy of the information shared with other members of the group. On the other hand, sharing health information could have positive effects for patients, such as sharing disease experiences and peer support. However, more work is needed to ensure that Facebook users in the Arab world are aware of the potential consequences of sharing sensitive health information through social media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • social media
  • internet
  • Arab world
  • diseases
  • sensitive health information
  • Facebook
  • privacy issues


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