A new study has revealed that Brits act on health advice seen online an average of four times a year by sharing with friends, researching symptoms or purchasing products. One in 10 have taken advice that they later found to be inaccurate.
With viral incentivised platforms such as TikTok, viewers are sharing videos with their friends before TikTok even has the chance to take them down.
The research, commissioned by Superdrug Online Doctor, tackles the rise of health misinformation posted on social media. With many self-claimed medical experts on the platform sharing advice and diagnoses, snippets of false information are being openly consumed by unknowing users.
The new study explores the negative impact of consuming health misinformation online with help from qualified doctors discussing how we can spot misinformation before we act on it.
Articles with ‘TikTok’ and ‘fake’ in the title have had an 812% increase since last December
While Instagram was voted the most trusted platform for health advice overall (15%) and Twitter the least trusted (7%), the research commissioned by Superdrug Online Doctor showed how TikTok was the most trusted by younger generations.
With 38.9% of TikTok users between 18 and 24, the study revealed that 58% of viewers aged 16-24 believe that the health advice they consume on social media is accurate. The research also shows articles with “TikTok” and ‘fake’ in the title have had an 812% increase since last December, suggesting a large rise in reporting of misinformation on the platform.
Half of 16-34-year-olds believe they have learnt more about sex from TikTok than at school
Sexual health information has gained a huge audience on social media, with 1.6 billion views on TikTok’s #sexualhealth hashtag and an even bigger 3.1 billion views for STI symptoms. This could be due to the rise of young adults believing school is slacking in the sex ed department too.
A previous study by Superdrug Online Doctor revealed that 72% of Brits believe their sex education at school was ‘very basic’ or ‘poor’. Curious teens are now finding answers on TikTok, with 55% of 16-24-year-olds stating they have learnt more from TikTok regarding sex than at school. This decreases slightly to 46.5% of 25-34-year-olds feeling the same.
Half of Brits feel a misinformed social media post about health or sex could negatively impact their social life
Misleading health content has an unspoken impact on mental health, including misdiagnosis and increased needless anxiety.
The research revealed 65% of consumers feel health misinformation can have a negative impact on mental health, while 63% believe it can impact their general confidence. Consuming health misinformation online also impacted half of Brits’ relationships; one in two said it could even impact their social life.
Whether you think you have an STI or are worried about your sexual health, or even if you’ve got symptoms of a condition you’ve just discovered online, be sure to check in with an actual doctor rather than tapping and scrolling your way to an anxiety-inducing self-diagnosis.
Psychologist Smriti Joshi shared her top tips on how to spot a misleading post and ensure you fact-check the content you consume.
- Be aware of social media algorithms.
- Have a critical eye and ear and ask if this is right for you.
- Always ensure to check the source of the information you are accessing.
- If a piece of information looks magical, it’s probably too good to be true.
- Remember we all have unique bodies and unique needs.