Many people turn to the internet for health-related information. Teens tend to seek information about healthy lifestyles (fitness, diet, sexual health, mental health, etc.) online on social media like TikTok, a video-sharing platform. New research published in JMIR Formative Research found that many videos on mental health topics are positively received and supported by other users.
“Peer health stories are particularly valued among teenagers. Social media influencers, content-creating teens, 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 health and wellness experiences and strategies, such as meditation, mindfulness, stress relief, and those specific to mental health conditions.” TikTok is a very popular social media app among teenagers and researchers were interested in exploring mental health-related content on the platform.
To do this, researchers searched for English-language videos on TikTok using the hashtag #mentalhealth and sampled the first 100 videos. All videos were analyzed for content categories like General Mental Health, Anxiety, Depression, Interpersonal Relationships and other related categories. The comments on each video were also analyzed for certain topics, such as offering support or validation, mentioning their own experience with the mental health issue, sharing coping strategies, and other similar topics.
The 100 videos studied received a total of 1,354,100,000 views, 266,900,00 likes and 2,5115,954 comments. Most videos (51%) were in the General Mental Health category. 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 represented in only less than 20% of all videos.
Previous studies have expressed concern about the potential negative mental health effects platforms like TikTok may have. However, this data is encouraging, as the majority of video comments 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 cite some limitations for this work, including the inclusion of only videos in English and the smaller sample size.
The study, “Deconstructing TikTok Videos on Cross-Cutting Mental Health, Descriptive Content Analysis,” was authored by Corey H. Basch, Lorie Donelle, Joseph Fera, and Christie Jaime.