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Background: Social media with real-time content and a wide-reaching user network opens up more possibilities for palliative and end-of- life care (PEoLC) researchers who have begun to embrace it as a complementary research tool. This review aims to identify the uses of social media in PEoLC studies and to examine the ethical considerations and data collection approaches raised by this research approach.
Methods: Nine online databases were searched for PEoLC research using social media published before December 2022. Thematic analysis and narrative synthesis approach were used to categorise social media applications.
Results: 21 studies were included. 16 studies used social media to conduct secondary analysis and five studies used social media as a platform for information sharing. Ethical considerations relevant to social media studies varied while 15 studies discussed ethical considerations, only 6 studies obtained ethical approval and 5 studies confirmed participant consent. Among studies that used social media data, most of them manually collected social media data, and other studies relied on Twitter application programming interface or third-party analytical tools. A total of 1 520 329 posts, 325 videos and 33 articles related to PEoLC from 2008 to 2022 were collected and analysed.
Conclusions: Social media has emerged as a promising complementary research tool with demonstrated feasibility in various applications. However, we identified the absence of standardised ethical handling and data collection approaches which pose an ongoing challenge. We provided practical recommendations to bridge these pressing gaps for researchers wishing to use social media in future PEoLC- related studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Supportive & Palliative Care
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2024


  • palliative care
  • social media
  • research
  • systematic review
  • Internet


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