Article Text

Download PDFPDF

TikTok and public health: a proposed research agenda
  1. Marco Zenone1,2,
  2. Nikki Ow1,
  3. Skye Barbic1,3
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Providence Research, Providence Health Care, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Mr Marco Zenone; marco.zenone{at}lshtm.ac.uk

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Summary box

  • TikTok is a short video sharing social media platform that has grown rapidly since its launch, amassing over 1 billion monthly global users as of September 2021.

  • We argue that public health is served by paying urgent attention to the potential health-related implications of TikTok and suggest research agenda to inform decision-makers, health providers, researchers and the public.

  • Specific research priorities include investigating health-harming product promotion, medical advice/illness portrayal, dis/misinformation spread, sensitive or hateful content dissemination, problematic usage or addiction and platform corporate activity.

Introduction

TikTok is a short video sharing social media platform that has grown rapidly since its launch, amassing over 1 billion monthly global users as of September 2021.1 Users on TikTok create and engage with algorithm-suggested content related to their interests on a variety of subjects, including health-related or implicated topics. The global growth of TikTok, while offering an engaging experience for users and approach to connecting to diverse people, is accompanied by concerns, such as the quality of health advice offered in videos and sensitive content. In this commentary, we argue that public health is served by paying urgent attention to the potential health-related implications and opportunities of TikTok and suggest a research agenda to inform decision-makers, health providers, researchers and the public.

Public health-related concerns and research focus areas

Health-harming product promotion

Early research illustrates products detrimental to health, such as alcohol or vaping items, are widely viewed and portrayed positively on TikTok. For example, a study found that the top 100 videos with the #alcohol hashtag were viewed 291 999 100 times and 98% portrayed alcohol use in a positive manner. …

View Full Text