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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Researchers Find HPV Vaccine Discussion on Reddit Less Gendered, More Diverse Than in Broader Media

An analysis of Reddit discourse on human papillomavirus (HPV) led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers found that users were discussing a wider variety of topics, beyond cancer risks and sexual activity, in contrast to the prevailing media focus on sexual behavior linked to HPV vaccine and the characterization of it as a woman’s issue.

The study is the first to examine HPV discourse on Reddit, a popular online forum, and provides insight on the HPV vaccination attitudes of the platform’s little researched male-dominated population.

The research, published earlier this year in the Journal of Medical Internet Research: Public Health and Surveillance, examined more than 20,000 HPV vaccine-related Reddit comments over eight years. HPV-related political debates including vaccine policy, abortion rights and sex education policy were most discussed. Cancer risk followed as the second most widely discussed topic.

Interestingly, their analysis did not show a gender bias — in contrast with the women-focused narrative present in mainstream media. A sizable portion of the comments also focused on the circumcision debate and sexually transmitted infection prevention for men, further emphasizing the differences between HPV vaccine-related discussions on Reddit and in broader media.

These insights further the understanding of online HPV vaccination discourse and can inform concerted, tailored health communication efforts to promote HPV vaccination and improve sexual health online.

The study was led by Ms. Yuki Lama, a family science doctoral student at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Co-authors include Mr. Dian Hu, GWU; Ms. Amelia Jamison, UMD; Dr. Sandra Quinn, UMD and; Dr. David Broniatowski, GWU.

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