Many people turn to the internet for health-related information. Adolescents tend to seek information about healthy lifestyles (fitness, diet, sexual health, mental health, etc.) online on social media such as TikTok, a video sharing platform. New research published in JMIR Formative Research found that many videos on mental health topics are received positively and with support from other users.
“Health-related stories from peers are particularly valued among adolescents. Influencers on social media, adolescents who create content, and microcelebrities are increasingly important resources for health-related information and social support,” wrote study author Corey H. Basch and colleagues.
“Online social media networks provide valuable opportunities to connect with each other to share experiences and strategies for health and wellness, such as meditation, mindfulness, stress relief, and those specific to mental health conditions.” TikTok is a very popular social media app with adolescents and researchers were interested in exploring the mental health related content on the platform.
To do this, researchers searched for English-language videos on TikTok using the hashtag #mentalhealth and collected a sample of the first 100 videos. All videos were analyzed for content categories such as General Mental Health, Anxiety, Depression, Interpersonal Relationships, and other related categories. The comments on each video were also analyzed for certain themes such as offering support or validation, mentioning one’s own experience with the mental health issue, sharing coping strategies, and other similar themes.
The 100 videos studied received a total of 1,354,100,00 views, 266,900,00 likes, and 2,5115,954 comments. Most videos (51%) were in the category of General Mental Health. The next most prevalent category (40%) was Personal experience followed by Interpersonal relationships (18%). The remaining content categories were only represented in less than 15% of all videos.
The most common themes in the comments were offering support or validation (61%) and describing other mental health issues or struggles (49%). The remaining themes were only represented in less than 20% of all videos.
Previous studies have expressed concern about the potential negative effects on mental health that platforms like TikTok can have. However, this data is encouraging in that most comments on videos about people’s mental health struggles were positive, supportive, and validating. Importantly, most of the videos in this sample were posted by consumers, not mental health professionals, so future research should investigate how recommendations for coping strategies are represented on TikTok.
The authors do cite some limitations to this work including the inclusion of only English-language videos and the smaller sample size.
The study, “Deconstructing TikTok Videos on Mental Health Cross-sectional, Descriptive Content Analysis“, was authored by Corey H. Basch, Lorie Donelle, Joseph Fera, and Christie Jaime.