Young people have lots of questions about diet, exercise, and sexual health. TikTok is one of their most trusted venues for finding out information.

“They’ll go to TikTok and ask questions,” says Nicole O’Donnell, assistant professor at Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. “They’re learning about health mostly through other people’s stories rather than some of the traditional health information you might get online.”

Nicole O'Donnell
Nicole O’Donnell

But are they getting good health advice? In a recent study, O’Donnell analyzed health content on TikTok. Influencers with motivational stories were prevalent, while content from credentialed health providers was lacking.

In this episode, she talks with Washington State Magazine science writer Becky Kramer about the potential pitfalls of teens relying on influencers for health information—particularly if the influencers are selling products.

O’Donnell also has advice for public health officials working on teen outreach. Short TikTok videos are effective at reaching young people. And personal stories count, she says.





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