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Adolescents with chronic disease and social media: a cross-sectional study
  1. Laura De Nardi1,
  2. Andrea Trombetta1,
  3. Sergio Ghirardo1,
  4. Maria Rita Lucia Genovese1,
  5. Egidio Barbi1,2,
  6. Valentina Taucar2
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, Surgery and Health Sciences, Department of Pediatrics, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
  2. 2 Institute for Maternal and Child Health IRCCS 'Burlo Garofolo', Trieste, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrea Trombetta, IRCSS Burlo Garofolo, Universita degli Studi di Trieste, 34137 Trieste, Italy; andreamer91{at}


Objective This study aims to explore the attitude of adolescents with chronic diseases toward social media exposure, focusing in particular on Facebook.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting An anonymous semistructured survey was distributed to an Italian hospital-based cohort of adolescents with chronic disease to explore the role of Facebook in their daily life.

Patients We recruited 212 adolescents (aged between 13 and 24 years) with a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, diabetes mellitus type 1 and cystic fibrosis.

Results Two hundred and seven of the 212 (97.6%) expressed the need of sharing their illness experience with friends, 201 out of 212 (94.8%) usually searched information on the internet to find new therapies and to discover their prognosis. One hundred and forty-nine out of 212 adolescents (70.3%) perceived dependence on their parents as the most negative aspect of having a chronic disease, and 200 out of 212 (94.3%) were looking for friends with the same disease on Facebook. Two hundred and ten out of 212 (99.1%) did not want their doctors or nurse on their social media platforms. During the active disease periods, the time spent with social media increased from an average of 5 to 11 hours.

Conclusions This descriptive analysis focused on the Facebook impact on chronic disease perception among affected adolescents. It showed that they used to spend an increased amount of time on this platform during disease flare-up and highlighted their wish of keeping doctors and nurses away from their social dimension.

  • adolescent health
  • social networking
  • chronic disease
  • Facebook

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  • Contributors LDN, AT and MRLG drafted the manuscript. LDN, AT and SG contributed to data interpretation and statistical analysis. EB and VT contributed to the conception and design of the work. VT gave a substantial contribution to data acquisition. EB critically revised the article for relevant intellectual content.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The Institute Ethical Committee approved the study.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.