Systematic review on the prevalence, frequency and comparative value of adverse events data in social media

Su Golder (Lead Author), Gill Norman, Yoon K Loke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)
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Aim: The aim of this review was to summarize the prevalence, frequency and comparative value of information on the adverse events of healthcare interventions from user comments and videos in social media.
Methods: A systematic review of assessments of the prevalence or type of information on adverse events in social media was undertaken. Sixteen databases and two internet search engines were searched in addition to handsearching, reference checking and contacting experts. The results were sifted independently by two researchers. Data extraction and quality assessment were carried out by one researcher and checked by a second. The quality assessment tool was devised in-house and a narrative synthesis of the results followed.
Results: From 3064 records, 51 studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies assessed over 174 social media sites with discussion forums (71%) being the most popular. The overall prevalence of adverse events reports in social media varied from 0.2% to 8% of posts. Twenty-nine studies compared the results from searching social media with using other data sources to identify adverse events. There was general agreement that a higher frequency of adverse events was found in social media and that this was particularly true for ‘symptom’ related and ‘mild’ adverse events. Those adverse events that were under-represented in social media were laboratory-based and serious adverse events.
Conclusions: Reports of adverse events are identifiable within social media. However, there is considerable heterogeneity in the frequency and type of events reported, and the reliability or validity of the data has not been thoroughly evaluated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)878-888
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • adverse drug reactions
  • adverse effects
  • adverse events
  • pharmacovigilance
  • social media
  • systematic review

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