Publications & Reports

Young Adults' Use of Different Social Media Platforms for Health Information: Insights From Web-Based Conversations.

Lim MSC, Molenaar A, Brennan L, Reid M, McCaffrey T
Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia.


BACKGROUND: Social media-delivered health promotion has demonstrated limited uptake and effectiveness among young adults. Understanding how young adults interact with existing social media platforms for health might provide insight for future health promotion interventions. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to describe how young adults interact with different social media platforms for health and health information. METHODS: We used a web-based conversation methodology to collect data from 165 young adults aged 18 to 24 years. Participants participated in an extended conversation with moderators and other participants about health and social media. They were prompted to discuss how they find health information, how they use different social media platforms, and how they evaluate the trustworthiness of information. A thematic qualitative analysis was applied to the data. RESULTS: Young adults spent a lot of time scrolling through Facebook newsfeeds, which often resulted in seeing health-related content either from their friends, news sources, or advertisements. Some actively sought out information about specific health areas by joining groups or following relevant pages. YouTube was considered a useful source for learning about everything and was often the go-to when searching for information or advice (after Google). Young adults found the video format easy to learn from. They stated that they could identify accurate YouTube health content by cross-checking multiple videos, by feeling that the presenter was real and relatable, or just through instinctively judging a video’s credibility. Instagram was a source of inspiration for health and wellness from those whose lives were dedicated to healthy lifestyles and fitness. Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat were rarely used for health information. CONCLUSIONS: Most young adults obtain health information from social media, both actively and through passive exposure. Participants indicated looking to social media influencers for health and lifestyle inspiration and judged the credibility of sources by appearance and instinct. Health experts should try to use the channels in the way that young adults already use them; use relatable role models on Instagram and YouTube, eye-catching headlines and support groups on Facebook, and easy to follow instruction videos via YouTube. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): RR2-10.1111/1747-0080.12448.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Journal of Medical Internet Research
  • Published: 18/01/2022
  • Volume: 24
  • Issue: 1
  • Pagination: e23656