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Social media platforms such as TikTok have become integral to the lives of millions, offering entertainment and vast information. Among the plethora of content, health information reigns supreme. However, the implications of this growing trend is highly debatable.

Health advice on TikTok may be misleading

Hashtags such as #celiactok and #diabetestok have become highly popular, amassing millions of views and leading to numerous videos on each health topic.

According to Rose Dimitroyannis, a third-year medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, various “Tok” communities form online, connecting people with similar interests. This trend has had positive effects, allowing professionals like dietitians to reach a broader audience and provide valuable health information globally and instantly.

The internet provides a platform for healthcare professionals, including doctors, to offer support and information to those with health conditions. However, it also exposes users to misinformation. Individuals posing as experts, misrepresenting qualifications, or speaking authoritatively without medical background can spread false narratives and deceive the public.

In the wake of health trends, many individuals share new ideas innocently. Recipes like carrot salads for “hormone balance” or “sleepy girl mocktails” containing magnesium are not inherently harmful. However, amidst these harmless suggestions, there lurks more dangerous advice, such as advocating for daily borax consumption. Christopher Roxbury, MD, a surgeon and rhinology expert at UChicago Medicine, warns of the challenge in discerning between beneficial and harmful information on platforms like TikTok.

Misinformation growing on TikTok

Researchers conducted a thorough analysis of health-related content on TikTok to gauge the prevalence of misinformation and its sources. Their study revealed that nearly half of the videos examined contained inaccurate information, particularly from creators without medical expertise.

The team conducted a focused study on TikTok to understand misinformation about sinusitis. They limited their search to 24 hours to minimize the impact of algorithm changes, using hashtags like #sinusitis and #sinus. They categorized videos based on uploader types and assessed quality using metrics like understandability and reliability, including tools like the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool. Nearly 44% of videos contained misinformation, with a significant portion coming from nonmedical influencers with over 10,000 followers.