Today, more and more users do not hesitate to get information on social networks. Platforms like TikTok are even overshadowing Google, almost becoming a search engine in their own right. A real reflex for some, it is however not without risk for your health.
Indeed, social networks are a nest of false beliefs and misinformation. So, finding out about medical news on social networks like WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok or even YouTube is a bad idea. This is what the Descartes Foundation underlines through a study published this Thursday, November 23, 2023.
It's not just about vaccination. Nutrition, mental health and even cancers are also subjects concerned. Thus, French people who often, or even very often, obtain information on social networks display on average a lower level of health knowledge than others. As a result, they are more likely to engage in risky medical behaviors, such as forgoing medical treatment in favor of alternative therapy (osteopathy, acupuncture, reflexology, magnetism) or not getting vaccinated.
Risk behavior because of social networks?
The study carried out by the Descartes Foundation therefore demonstrates that French people who obtain information “often” to “very often” thanks to YouTube are 2.9 times more likely than others to have already stopped medical treatment to try an alternative therapy. Those who prefer to get information on TikTok are 2.7 times more likely to have already refused to be vaccinated or to have their children vaccinated, apart from the Covid-19 vaccine.
Among people surveyed, those who use messaging groups like Telegram or WhatsApp to stay informed about health issues are twice as likely to have refused the Covid-19 vaccine.
Fortunately, social networks are far from being the primary source for most respondents. Despite everything, the share of social networks continues to grow. As an example, sociologist and director of research at the Descartes Foundation Laurent Cordonnier explains that more than 50% of the population surveyed for this study actually believes that dark chocolate could treat serious mental disorders such as depression. However, this is a false believer that is nevertheless extremely widespread, particularly because of social networks.
Generally, people who often find out about medical news on social networks display a lack of of trust in science. National or regional general media have only moderate confidence from those interviewed by the Descartes Foundation.
Despite everything, this study demonstrates that the doctor remains the primary source of information. Indeed, 40.2% of those consulted say they get information from him often, or even very often. Relatives are the second preferred source of information.