TikTok vasectomy videos spread bad info

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TikTok videos about vasectomy have low medical accuracy, a new study shows.

Reports of rising rates in vasectomy procedures following the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs are not hard to find, raising questions about the accuracy of information online.

When researchers evaluated videos on TikTok using a standard rubric for assessing the quality of health information, they found that the videos had an average score of 0.19 out of 5.

“In addition to the poor quality of the information, it was concerning to see that there were gaps in information in places where a medical professional would have provided relevant context,” says Jonas Swartz, assistant professor in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Duke University School of Medicine and senior author of the study in the journal AUANews.

“For example, many videos mention that vasectomy can fail but don’t note that the failure rate is really, really low, making it the most effective form of contraception,” Swartz says.

TikTok has become a space where one-in-five Americans search for information on health. The platform is especially popular among young people, who often do not consume news and information from other more traditional sources.

Examining the 100 most liked videos tagged “#vasectomy” on the social media platform, which garnered a combined 353 million views, the researchers also found:

  • 12% of the videos offered scientific or health care information and 6% were made by a health care professional.
  • The videos averaged 83% in understandability and 1.3% in actionability.
  • 11% mentioned abortion, and 70% mentioned the male role in contraception.

The study is one of several studies that researchers in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Duke Health have done to examine information quality on TikTok about reproductive topics, such as IUDs and endometriosis.

“This deficit of quality on a platform where young patients are going to seek out health information is a matter of public health concern,” says first author Jessica Liu, first author of the study and a medical student at Duke University School of Medicine.

“It represents an area where we as providers can step in and give access to evidence-based information, so our patients may have something credible to draw upon when making care decisions,” Liu says.

The researchers say this study’s findings, and the findings of the previous TikTok studies, all point to that same need for quality information on social media platforms.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded the work.

Source: Duke University