1 in 3 Scot Adults Turn To Social Media For Health Advice, Despite Misinformation Concerns

1.6 million Scots choose online health advice over professional practice, research shows.

Recent survey from Naturecan has revealed that 37% of Scots (approx. 1.6 million) have taken advice on physical and/or mental health from social media platforms. Respondents were asked questions about their social media activities relating to physical and mental health queries - the results show some interesting insights into online behaviours.

    The topics most likely to be searched for advice on are mental health topics:

    • General Mental Health (47%)

    • Wellbeing, Self-care and Mindfulness (46%)

    • Weight Loss (42%)


Source: UnsplashSource: Unsplash
Source: Unsplash

Of those that said they do take advice from social media platforms, 56% were unsure whether the creator they were being advised by was qualified to do so or not.

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This presents a real issue in terms of spreading misinformation, which social media already has a strong reputation for with many posts going unregulated with a direct toy on Brits mental health.

“Unfortunately, we’re in an era where anyone can present themselves as an expert, it’s more important than ever to develop digital literacy skills, particularly in evaluating the reliability of health related information that is being presented to you.” says Dr. Lawrence Cunningham from the UK Care Guide.

Social media has also propelled ADHD into popular awareness, as it has taken over platforms like TikTok and Twitter. As of April 2024, the hashtag #adhd has 3.1M posts on TikTok. Many people credit these platforms with helping them realise they had the diagnosis and subsequently seeking treatment for it. However, as is always the case with the internet and social media, misinformation about ADHD is fairly prevalent. A recent study by Autism Service has found that more than half of ADHD content on TikTok was misleading, most of them posted by non-health care providers. That same study however did show that content posted by health care providers was overwhelmingly more accurate and useful to consumers.

Most Searched Health Topics On Social Media By ScotsMost Searched Health Topics On Social Media By Scots
Most Searched Health Topics On Social Media By Scots

Whatsmore, topics such as anxiety and stress are highly searched on social media as well. At the moment, #stress gathers over 164M posts on Tiktok, and #anxiety 5M videos on the platform. Because of platforms like Tiktok and people sharing their experiences, it's prompting others who might have experienced the same symptoms to self diagnose, one of their main reasons being the quick access to advice. Our respondents agree:

    The main reasons Scots look for health advice on Social Media are:

    • Looking to improve themselves (53%)

    • Quick access to advice (49%)

    • Personal stories (31%)

It comes as no surprise, though. Brits looking for expert health advice have to wait approximately 18 weeks from referral to assessment, and there will be a further wait for treatment, as NHS specifies in their Specialist Psychotherapy Service pages. With 20% of Brits saying the reason they turn to social media for health advice is due to a lack of access to professionals, should these platforms be more regulated, to ensure those who are reliant on them are receiving the best advice they can get for their physical and mental health?


Most Searched Health Topics On Social Media By ScotsMost Searched Health Topics On Social Media By Scots
Most Searched Health Topics On Social Media By Scots

    Females in Scotland are twice as likely (50%) to look for health advice on social media than males (26%), especially mental health.

    • Females search for Mental Health (53%), Wellbeing, Self Care and Mindfulness (51%), and Anxiety (43%) the most.

  • Males search for Workout routines (48%), General Health assessment (44%) and Weight Loss (43%) the most

“This happens more frequently than we think. In my patients, I see a clear tendency of women being more likely to come seeking health advice, while males normally have been advised to come by their partners or mothers. Furthermore, there has been evidence and research into this, and the common theme in these findings is that 'women reported that they would visit a family physician in response to both physical and mental health concerns to a greater extent than men did” explains Dr. Hana Patel, NHS GP and GP Medico-Legal Expert Witness.

Furthermore, mental health self assessment has increased exponentially among women, especially during the last 5 years. Google Trends reveals an increase of 2.650% for searches on adhd quizzes for women and 1.650% for adhd women symptoms.

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