Study Finds Younger Adults Turning To Social Media For Medical Advice

As Generation Z starts to engage with healthcare services, a new study reveals that social media is are becoming a major provider of healthcare information to younger adults.

The study, Patient Trendscoping: What You Need To Know About Patients of the Future reveals that TikTok and Facebook have become primary providers of information for millions of younger patients, who feel that traditional health services are failing to support them or even dismissing their symptoms.  

The study was conducted by Hall & Partners--part of Omnicom’s Communications Consultancy Network--and pharma consultancy Think Next.

As many as 58.9 million people (17.5% of the US population) are turning to a new generation of influencers on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok for help with chronic conditions and for more general healthcare information.



And globally 33% of GenZ and 26% of millennials (compared to 5% of Baby Boomers) will use social media to discuss illness. For GenZ the top platform is TikTok followed by Instagram and Twitter, while older adults are more likely to turn to Facebook first.  

For patients of all ages with chronic conditions, 30% globally don’t see their doctor as a go-to source of advice. That rises to 63% for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) sufferers, 29% of whom are using specific groups on social media while 28% are using online influencers.

Even when they do visit a doctor, per the study, 29% of U.S. GenZ and 32% of Millennials are taking charge and asking to be prescribed based on information they have read on a website, and 20% of GenZ asking to be given a treatment they had heard about from another patient or influencer.

This compares to just 7% of Baby Boomers who ask to be prescribed based on online information and 4% of the same group who reference treatment information from other patients or influencers. 

The study is based on online surveys taken by 10,500 people over the age of 18 in the U.S., China, UK, Germany and Japan and was conducted between July and September 2022.  

Overall, the report finds that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of health services across all generations and in all countries. 

Half of patients feel frustrated that they do not get enough time with doctors (46% globally and 42% in the U.S.) and that providers sometimes lack empathy (43% globally and 40% in the U.S.).

Also, per the report, many patients find their questions are not being answered clearly. Fifteen percent globally and 11% in the U.S. said they struggled to understand what a medical professional said due to complicated medical language, particularly when it comes to complex diseases such as IBD. 

And 16% of people in the U.S. said they have felt discriminated against by a healthcare professional (14% globally) because of their age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation or weight.  The figure is even higher among Black/African Americans, where 26% have felt discriminated against by a healthcare provider.

Around one in four people in the UK and U.S. (26% in UK and 22% in the US) feel they are dismissed and not taken seriously by a medical professional when discussing their symptoms. This is even higher for people with some harder-to-diagnose conditions such as depression (37%), neurodivergent conditions (50%) and autoimmune conditions (43%).

“This trend is likely to accelerate, and digital solutions will be an important element in reconnecting younger patients with traditional sources of healthcare advice,” says Amanda Kealey, Senior Partner in Hall & Partners healthcare division. “All generations could benefit from better communication and improved patient trust. Healthcare professionals should consider ways to interact with younger generations with user-friendly technology such as Voice-based and VR solutions.” 


1 comment about "Study Finds Younger Adults Turning To Social Media For Medical Advice".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 15, 2023 at 7:57 p.m.

    So rather than taking the time to do some research on their medical issue---whatever it is----and there's plenty of info available online---young folks think they are better off getting medical advice from social media? How lazy can you get? As for not always understanding exactly what a medical practicioner is saying or coping with the jargon, sure---so after doing some home work you ask questions and if the medical people keep shunting you off or   mumbling incoherently and that bothers you why not go elsewhere?Yes, I know, some people don't have the financial means---or the time---- to shop around for "better" medical help. Fair enough. But going to social media as a solution? That's nuts.

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