The researchers identified that ‘popular’ videos created by bloggers received significantly more views than expert-led videos and contained both misinformation and consumer bias. Results are published in
“What’s difficult is that health information is very nuanced, and a lot of popular YouTube videos are clickbait and appeal to short attention spans,” said lead study author Rebecca Robbins, PhD, investigator in the Brigham Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. and an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“People today often want very bite-sized pieces of information. However, science is fundamentally more nuanced than a one-liner or 280 characters in a Twitter post.”
Are YouTube Videos on Sleep Health Reliable?
To conduct the study, the team searched YouTube to identify and label popular YouTube videos on sleep medicine using key words such as ‘insomnia’ and ‘sleep tips’. They then sorted the videos by the number of views and identified the videos with the most views as ‘popular’. They compared these popular videos to videos from trusted sources identified by a feature on YouTube that puts content from health care systems at the top of search results for health-related terms.
The videos were then assessed for information quality by sleep specialists trained to identify misinformation using validated health communication assessment tools including the Patient Education Content Assessment Tool (PEMAT) and the DISCERN brief questionnaire. The study found that the videos that received the highest number of views were most often produced by bloggers (42.9%), followed by medical professionals and health coaches (33.3% and 23.8%, respectively). While popular videos got an average of 8.2 million views, those led by experts only got 0.3 million views.
None of the identified expert-led videos contained commercial bias or promotion of a product or service, yet 66.7% of popular videos showed such biases. Although the popular videos presented significantly more misinformation, the investigators found no difference in understanding of the material presented between the expert-led and popular videos.
The researchers can’t pinpoint exactly why consumers seek information about sleep health from videos made by bloggers rather than videos from sleep experts, but attribute these trends to the ability of content creators to create media. that is attractive, aesthetically appealing and relatable to the audience.
“Medical misinformation, including what some videos about sleep disorders have found, can cause patients to avoid care or receive the wrong care and can be harmful to patient outcomes,”said senior study author Stuart Cowan, MD, clinical chief and medical director of Brigham’s Sleep Disorders Service in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Sleep medicine is not immune to this issue.”
Time To Fight Against Fake News: Stop Spreading Misinformation
The investigators acknowledged that the types of videos considered ‘popular’ by experts are always changing. Additionally, while the study focused specifically on YouTube, the team hopes to expand the research to include other social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. The researchers also expressed hope that in the future, platforms such as YouTube will continue to find creative ways to partner with health professionals to combat misinformation.Life Style