According to recent study, social media superstars’ contraceptive advice may be placing young people at risk of unplanned births. According to the study, which was published in the journal Health Communication, teenagers and young adults may also be receiving inaccurate sexual health information, making many of the popular films a public health danger.
Researchers examined a large number of YouTube videos released by celebrities with up to 2.2 million followers and discovered that viewers are more likely to get information on ceasing hormonal contraception rather than how to use contraception or have safe sex. Previous research reveals that because of their relatability and accessibility, influencers are more persuasive and impactful than traditional celebrities.
Young people regard them as quite trustworthy, with young women indicating that influencers sometimes appear to be close sisters. YouTube influencers are especially likely to provide personal information, which is known to develop ties with followers. To find out more, a team of specialists from the University of Delaware in the United States examined YouTube for videos in which influencers with at least 20,000 followers discussed their contraceptive experiences.
They found 50 videos released between December 2019 and December 2021 by influencers with 20,000 to 2.2 million followers. The videos were then evaluated to establish the influencers’ opinions about hormonal birth control, such as contraceptive pills, injections, and implants, as well as non-hormonal alternatives such as fertility tracker apps and condoms.
The majority of the influencers discussed discontinuing hormonal birth control, with 92% stating they were using or had used it and 74% saying they had ceased or planned to discontinue it. The major reasons behind the influencers’ decision to stop were a desire to be more natural and to enhance their mental health. According to the experts, the link between depression and hormonal birth control is still unclear.
Non-hormonal birth control was used or was used by 40% of the influencers, with fertility monitors being the most prevalent technique. Non-hormonal birth control was liked because it helped prevent pregnancies, was more natural, had less side effects, and was less expensive.
Non-hormonal birth control was used or was used by 40% of the influencers, with fertility monitors being the most prevalent technique.
Non-hormonal birth control was liked because it helped prevent pregnancies, was more natural, had less side effects, and was less expensive.
The popularity of fertility trackers is troubling, says lead author Emily Pfender, of the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware – who defines some of the information as “possibly dangerous,”.
“Tracking cycles may not be as effective at preventing pregnancy as hormonal birth control,” she says.
“Additionally, what young viewers don’t see in influencer content is the amount of effort and meticulous planning that goes into tracking cycles.
“For example, to use the cycle tracking method as intended, women must faithfully measure basal body temperature and viscosity of cervical fluid at the same time every day, track cycle lengths to calculate their fertile window and refrain from having sex on specific days of their cycle.”
Finally, few of the women who stopped using a hormonal contraception reported switching to another technique. Only 20% had begun using a non-hormonal contraceptive, while 14% had begun using a different hormonal contraceptive. “The discontinuation of hormonal birth control is risky because it increases the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy,” adds Ms. Pfender.
“Influencers’ videos that discourage the use of a highly effective option for birth control and fail to encourage using other forms of protection to prevent against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are a public health issue.”
The study’s limitations include a lack of information on who is watching the films, if some age groups find them more persuasive than others, and whether the keywords used to search for the videos retrieved all relevant examples.
The authors suggest that, while social media may be a beneficial source of knowledge, young people should exercise caution when seeking contraceptive advice from influencers.
“Getting sexual health information from social media gives young adults the opportunity to get peer perspectives and seek out relatable information,” says Ms. Pfender, “It is an especially good way for underrepresented groups such as LGBTQ+ young adults to get tailored sexual health information.”