Using Twitter to share mental health research

“What Do I Say? How Do I Say it?” Twitter as a Knowledge Dissemination Tool for Mental Health Research

by Erin Madden, Katrina Prior, Tara Guckel, Sophia Garlick Bock, Zachary Bryant, Siobhan O’Dean, Smriti Nepal, Caitlin Ward & Louise Thornton

Published 13 November 2023

What's the issue?

It can take approximately 17 years for health research findings to be implemented into practice. 1

Social media platforms such as ‘X’ (previously known as Twitter), offer alternative ways to communicate research to large audiences and help close this research-to-practice gap. However, little is known about how the platform can be most effectively used to share mental health research.

Madden et al. aimed to gain a better understanding of how written text and content features (e.g. hashtags, hyperlinks, media) in Tweets are associated with user engagement.

What was done?

The researchers sampled three hundred tweets relating to mental health research from two large organisations in Australia between September 2018 to September 2019.

The number of favourites (i.e. ‘likes’), retweets (i.e. shares), and whether a Tweet received comments were used to measure engagement.

A total of 27 variables were coded for the Tweets. Following validity and reliability testing, 10 variables were included in regression analyses.

What was found?

The authors found that between September 2018 and September 2019:

  • Tweets that included hyperlinks were approximately 2.1 times more likely to be retweeted.
  • Tweets that included media were approximately 1.3 times more likely to be retweeted.
  • Tweets that focused on a specific population group were 2.2 times more likely to receive comments.
  • Tweets where the mental health focus area was suicide were approximately 1.6 times more likely to receive favourites.
  • Tweets that used hashtags were approximately 0.63 times less likely to receive favourites.
Why are findings important?

These new findings diverge from prior research on general mental health-related Tweets. An earlier study found factors such as focusing on specific mental illnesses and including a call-to-action increased engagement, where the current study shows no significant impact for both. The authors suggest this may indicate that different factors prompt people to engage with Tweets about mental health research, compared to mental health more generally.

Using hashtags was associated with Tweets receiving fewer favourites, which contrasts with previous studies2,3 and guidelines4. Given this emerging trend in context of past research, the researchers recommend a more purposeful use of hashtags.

During reliability tests, the authors found it difficult to consistently agree if a Tweet was evidence-based. They highlight that this problem is representative of broader issues of misinformation on social media. It raises further questions about how we recognise evidence-based information on social media, and how to best signal that Tweets are evidence-based.

From their study, Madden et al. developed a set of guidelines to help researchers promote important findings on Twitter (X). The guidelines are available for free via the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use website.



Morris, Z. S., Wooding, S., & Grant, J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: Understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104(12), 510–520. doi:10. 1258/jrsm.2011.110180


Ju, Jia, & Cheng, 2023 - Ju, R., Jia, M., & Cheng, J. (2023). Promoting mental health on social media: A content analysis of organizational tweets. Health Communication, 38 (8), 1540–1549. doi:10.1080/10410236.2021.2018834


Veale et al., 2015 - Veale, H. J., Sacks-Davis, R., Weaver, E. R., Pedrana, A. E., Stoové, M. A., & Hellard, M. E. (2015). The use of social networking platforms for sexual health promotion: Identifying key strategies for successful user engagement. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 85–85. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1396-z


X Business, 2023 - Organic Best Practices: Tips for Growing and Engaging Your Audience on X. Retrieved from