#Movember & Other Hashtags:Talking about Health on Social Media

It’s November, and chances are you’re already growing your mo’ – but, just in case you haven’t heard of #movember, here’s a little refresher: November means it’s also #movember and that means men everywhere are growing moustaches for one month in support of talking about men’s health. Several thousands of people are sharing photos of their ’staches, real or otherwise, on social media using #movember or sometimes #showyomo (= Show Your Moustache)

#Movember is a health hashtag that has truly caught on since its inception in 2003.
#showyomo on Instagram!

The movement was founded in 2003 by two Australians. Today the Movember Foundation is global and focuses on four core men’s health topics: Prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health, and physical inactivity.

Social Media is a great channel for people to talk openly about health: It’s low threshold, can be anonymous, and information can be sourced independent of geographical distances. So, if you’re interested in health and health care or, even better, if you’re running a health-related hashtag campaign, there are a whole lot of health hashtags you should use and keep an eye on.

Raising awareness and sharing struggles with health hashtags

People on Twitter use hashtags in order to raise funds or simply to raise awareness for certain diseases. They connect to other sufferers, share stories, and exchange advice. Some hashtags are recurring and tied to specific weekdays. Many of these choices are pretty obvious, including the name of a disease, but others can be more obscure and harder to find.

  • #fuckcancer is a general hashtag used by people talking openly about their cancer stories, while #BrainTumorThursday is a more specific cancer hashtag.
  • #lymeproblems draws attention to complications sufferers of Lyme disease, a chronic illness caused by tick bites, face daily.
  • People affected with all kinds of chronic illnesses rally behind the hashtags #chronicillness and #chronicpain. Many also use the more obscure #spoonie hashtag. “Spoonie” alludes to the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, which can be employed to explain to healthy people what it feels like to deal with chronic pain.
  • There are many hashtags related to mental health. One of them is #endstigma, a hashtag aimed at destigmatising mental health issues – still a taboo topic. #wishmyfriendsknew is used by those affected with mental health issues to give visibility to their struggles, which are often not talked about in their social circles.
  • #BrainHealth collects tweets about a wide variety of brain-related issues, from Alzheimer’s and brain cancer to brain injuries and mental health.
  • #AlzFacts: November isn’t just the awareness month for men’s health, but also for Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and others. #AlzFacts is just one of many hashtags about Alzheimer’s disease.
  • #GoRed is the official hashtag for the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign.

Healthcare hashtags for political activism

Twitter also lends itself well to politically motivated hashtags. The overhaul of the American health care system, for instance, has been accompanied by an onslaught of healthcare hashtags like #occupyhealthcare and #healthcareforall. These healthcare-related hashtags are also featured front and center in debates about the upcoming U.S. elections:

Meanwhile #vaccineswork is a hashtag for those fighting the current “antivaxxer” (those who oppose vaccinations) movement with the use of scientific data and results.

Hashtags for medical conferences and Twitter chats

Many medical or health conferences now use hashtags to direct conversations and connect attendees. The United European Gastroenterology Week 2015, for example, picked #uegweek for their recent conference in Vienna, and the hashtag is still going strong after the event.

Outside of conference hashtags, another focused form of conversation about health are the so-called Twitter chats. These are recurring discussions, for instance once a week, about certain topics. Every monday people use #mentalhealthmonday to discuss mental health topic. #ppdchat also takes place on Mondays and encourages women to talk openly about their experiences with Post Partum Depression.

How to find the right health and health care hashtags

Whether you are planning your own health-related hashtag marketing campaign, are researching a disease for an article, or just want to share your own story with others, there are a couple of resources you can use for finding relevant hashtags.

Those simply looking to join Twitter Chats can browse lists by week day on Tweet Reports or this Twitter chat wiki. But a much more ample resource can be found on symplur.com: Symplur’s Healthcare Hashtag Project is a project set up specifically for healthcare research on social media. You can browse general hashtags, conference hashtags, specific diseases and Twitter chats.

Their hashtag database is huge and more often than not also provides background information about each hashtag as well as recent usage statistics, influencers and related hashtags. You can also check on which topics are currently trending and which hashtags are new.

Track health hashtags on Symplur
Finding trending hashtags on symplur.com is easy.

Furthermore, the Healthcare Hashtag Project also ties into Symplur Signals, which is sort of a healthcare-specialised social media dashboard that could be interesting healthcare professionals and researchers alike.

How do you feel about talking openly about health on social media? Which health hashtags do you follow or find interesting? Let us know in the comments!