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Reactions on Twitter to updated alcohol guidelines in the UK: a content analysis

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Stautz, K 
Bignardi, G 
Hollands, GJ 
Marteau, Theresa, M 


Objectives In January 2016, the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers released a public consultation regarding updated guidelines for low-risk alcohol consumption. This study aimed to assess responses to the updated guidelines using comments made on Twitter.

Methods Tweets containing the hashtag #alcoholguidelines made during 1 week following the announcement of the updated guidelines were retrieved using the Twitter Archiver tool. The source, sentiment and themes of the tweets were categorised using manual content analysis.

Results A total of 3061 tweets was retrieved. 6 sources were identified, the most prominent being members of the public. Of 821 tweets expressing sentiment specifically towards the guidelines, 80% expressed a negative sentiment. 11 themes were identified, 3 of which were broadly supportive of the guidelines, 7 broadly unsupportive and 1 neutral. Overall, more tweets were unsupportive (49%) than supportive (44%). While the most common theme overall was sharing information, the most common in tweets from members of the public encouraged alcohol consumption (15%) or expressed disagreement with the guidelines (14%), reflecting reactance, resistance and misunderstanding.

Conclusions This descriptive analysis revealed a number of themes present in unsupportive comments towards the updated UK alcohol guidelines among a largely proalcohol community. An understanding of these may help to tailor effective communication of alcohol and health-related policies, and could inform a more dynamic approach to health communication via social media.



Twitter, alcohol, alcohol guidelines, health communication, social media, Alcohol Drinking, Alcoholic Beverages, Guidelines as Topic, Health Policy, Humans, Information Dissemination, Social Media, United Kingdom

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BMJ Open

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BMJ Journals
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00005/2)
The publication of this research was funded by the National Institute of Health Research Senior Investigator Award (NF-SI-0513-10101); awarded to Professor Theresa M Marteau.