Buffering against exposure to mental health misinformation in online communities on Facebook: the interplay of depression literacy and expert moderation

Nicole Bizzotto, Gert Jan de Bruijn, Peter Johannes Schulz

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Abstract

Background: The proliferation of health misinformation on social media is a growing public health concern. Online communities for mental health (OCMHs) are also considered an outlet for exposure to misinformation. This study explored the impact of the self-reported volume of exposure to mental health misinformation in misinformation agreement and the moderating effects of depression literacy and type of OCMHs participation (expert vs. peer-led). Methods: Participants (n = 403) were recruited in Italian-speaking OCMHs on Facebook. We conducted regression analyses using PROCESS macro (moderated moderation, Model 3). Measures included: the Depression Literacy Questionnaire (Griffiths et al., 2004), the self-reported misinformation exposure in the OCMHs (3 items), and misinformation agreement with the exposure items (3 items). Whether participants were members of expert or peer-led OCMHs was also investigated. Results: The final model explained the 12% variance in the agreement. There was a positive and significant relationship between misinformation exposure and misinformation agreement (β = 0.3221, p <.001), a significant two-way interaction between misinformation exposure and depression literacy (β = − 0.2179, p =.0014), and between self-reported misinformation exposure and type of OCMH (β = − 0.2322, p =.0254), such that at higher levels of depression literacy and in case of participation to expert-led OCMHs, the relationship misinformation exposure-misinformation agreement was weaker. Finally, a three-way interaction was found (β = 0.2497, p =.0144) that showed that depression literacy moderated the positive relationship between misinformation exposure and misinformation agreement such that the more misinformation participants were exposed to, the more they agreed with it unless they had higher levels of depression literacy; this, however, occurred only if they participated in peer-led groups. Conclusions: Results provide evidence that the more members reported being exposed to mental health misinformation, the more they tended to agree with it, however this was only visible when participants had lower depression literacy and were participating in peer-led OCMHs. Results of this study suggest that both internal factors (i.e., high depression literacy) and external factors (the type of online community individuals were participating in) can buffer the negative effects of misinformation exposure. It also suggests that increasing depression literacy and expert community moderation could curb the negative consequences of misinformation exposure related to mental health. Results will guide interventions to mitigate the effects of misinformation in OCMHs, including encouraging health professionals in their administration and implementing health education programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1577
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Depression literacy
  • Expert moderation
  • Mental health
  • Misinformation
  • Online communities

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