NEWS15 February 2023

Report shows influence of social media for healthcare information

Asia Pacific Europe Features Healthcare North America Technology Trends UK

UK, US, EUROPE & ASIA-PACIFIC – TikTok, Instagram and other social media networks have become popular sources of healthcare information for ‘generation Z’, according to a study from Hall & Partners and ThinkNext.

paper cut outs of people with a stethoscope

A third ( 33%) of gen Z respondents – people born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s – use social media to discuss illness, according to the report ‘Patient Trendscoping: What You Need To Know About Patients of the Future’.

The study is based on data from online surveys with 10,500 over-18s across the US, China, UK, Germany and Japan, conducted between July and September 2022 by Hall & Partners and healthcare innovation consultancy ThinkNext. The sample size for the UK was 1,764 and the report is based on the core weighted sample to ensure a gender balance across generations and within each market.

Just over a quarter ( 26%) of ‘millennials’ surveyed reported that they use social media to discuss illness, compared with 14% of ‘gen X’ and 5% of respondents in the ‘baby boomer’ generation.  

TikTok is the preferred social media platform for gen Z respondents to seek information about health information, followed by Instagram and Twitter. For millennials, gen X and baby boomers, Facebook emerged as the most popular network.

For patients with chronic health conditions, 62% regularly ask for information from their doctor, while 38% of respondents do not view their doctor as a ‘regular information source’. This group is more likely to turn to online influencers and social media for information. For example, 29% of inflammatory bowel disease sufferers use specific groups on social media and 28% claim to ‘rely’ on online influencers.

The report found that just under half of respondents globally ( 45%) report feeling frustrated that they do not get enough time with doctors – rising to 49% of UK participants.

Additionally, two-fifths ( 42%) of global respondents agreed that doctors ‘sometimes lack empathy’ and 15% reported that they are ‘not answering questions clearly’, while 14% reported feeling discriminated against by a healthcare professional because of their age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or weight.  

TikTok is increasingly employed as a search engine by gen Z users, with influencers sharing information and advice on a range of topics in addition to health, from careers to personal finance, but the app has also been criticised for proliferating misinformation and promoting health myths.