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.
- alcohol guidelines
- health communication
- social media
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Contributors KS and TMM conceived and designed the study. KS collected the data. KS, GB and GJH conducted the analysis. KS prepared the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to critically revising the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for publication.
Funding 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.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval University of Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee (ref: PRE.2016.007).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement The coding manual is available on request.
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