Millions of young people who feel let down by the NHS turn to TikTok as one in three youngsters seek medical advice on social media
- Six million people in the UK say they rely on TikTok and Instagram for health info
- Nearly half of patients in the UK feel they do not get enough time with doctors
Millions of young people who feel let down by the NHS are turning to social media for medical advice, a study has found.
Influencers on TikTok and Instagram are increasingly standing in for doctors as patients complain they struggle to be taken seriously.
A third of Generation Z and a quarter of millennials – around six million people in the UK – say they are relying on the platforms for health information.
This is despite experts warning for years about the dangers of medical advice on the internet where misinformation is rife.
The study by Hall & Partners was based on a survey of 10,500 people aged over-18 in the UK, US, Germany, China, and Japan carried out last Summer.
Influencers on TikTok and Instagram are increasingly standing in for doctors as patients complain they struggle to be taken seriously
It found nearly half of patients in the UK were frustrated that they did not get enough time with doctors and that they lacked empathy.
One in four said they did not feel they were taken seriously, while one in ten said they struggled to understand complicated medical jargon.
Instead, many have begun turning to social media sites for answers.
Generation Z were the most likely to do so, with 33 per cent admitting they were searching for help first on TikTok, and then Instagram and Twitter.
When they did visit a doctor, a quarter said they took charge by asking to be prescribed by something they had seen online.
While nearly one in five requested a treatment they had had heard from another patient or influencer using on social media.
Though older people tended to be the most likely to rely on visiting their GP, 5 per cent of those aged over 60 said they had used healthcare information they had come across on Facebook.
The study – titled Patient Trendscoping: What You Need To Know About Patients of the Future – found those of all ages with chronic illnesses were most likely not to see their doctor as a regular source of information.
This rose to nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of people suffering with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) sufferers, for example. Nearly a third (28 per cent) of this group said they relied on online influencers for advice.
Health influencers can gain huge followings posting about how to help those with issues.
A survey found nearly half of patients in the UK were frustrated that they did not get enough time with doctors and that they lacked empathy
Lottie Drynan, who has 256,000 followers on Instagram, has a blog called The Tummy Diaries in which she shares her ‘thoughts and tips’ on how to live with the condition.
She is explicit in telling her followers that they must see their GP, urging them to ‘not give up until you have answers’.
However experts have long warned that profit-minded social media giants use algorithms that tend to promote more sensationalist or controversial content rather than that which is reliable or accurate.
This is particularly dangerous when it comes to medical advice – a problem highlighted by the health conspiracies spread during the coronavirus pandemic about cures and the vaccine.
One example is the anti-parasitic medicine ivermectin, which was championed online as a Covid ‘miracle’ drug despite scientists finding no evidence of its effectiveness.
Lucy Ireland, Senior Partner in Hall & Partners healthcare division, said: ‘As the NHS faces ever-longer ambulance delays and strikes impacting emergency waiting times and doctor access further, this trend is likely to accelerate.
‘More digital solutions will be an important element in reconnecting younger patients with traditional sources of healthcare advice.’