Sharing is CaringThe Everyday Informal Exchange of Health Information Among Adults Aged Fifty and Over
Most studies on information behaviour focus on individual behaviour, predominantly seeking, scanning and avoiding. This paper explores sharing, the understudied informal exchange of health information in everyday social settings. Forty qualitative in-depth interviews were held with adults in the age range of fifty to eighty in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium. Thematic data analysis was carried out to identify and single out sharing behaviour. Using a grounded analysis approach, data findings were compared with and placed within the literature and conceptual frameworks. The study finds that health information sharing is a common and frequently occurring type of health information behaviour, embedded in everyday social and supportive interactions. The sharing of knowledge, experiences and advice takes place intentionally and in a premeditated fashion, as well as spontaneously and unintentionally when opportunities arise. Respondents observe and learn from others about health conditions, although the doctor remains the foremost expert. Driven by social motivations, sharing plays an important role in the acquisition, exchange and circulation of health information. This suggests that more attention should be paid to the social, collective and collaborative aspects of information behaviour, specifically everyday information sharing.