Unravelling the truth: examining the evidence for health-related claims made by naturopathic influencers on social media – a retrospective analysis

Van Nguyen, Luke Testa, Andrea L. Smith, Louise A. Ellis, Adam G. Dunn, Jeffrey Braithwaite, Mitchell Sarkies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Social media platforms are frequently used by the general public to access health information, including information relating to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The aim of this study was to measure how often naturopathic influencers make evidence-informed recommendations on Instagram, and to examine associations between the level of evidence available or presented, and user engagement.

Methods: A retrospective observational study using quantitative content analysis on health-related claims made by naturopathic influencers with 30000 or more followers on Instagram was conducted. Linear regression was used to measure the association between health-related posts and the number of Likes, and Comments.

Results: A total of 494 health claims were extracted from eight Instagram accounts, of which 242 (49.0%) were supported by evidence and 34 (6.9%) included a link to evidence supporting the claim. Three naturopathic influencers did not provide any evidence to support the health claims they made on Instagram. Posts with links to evidence had fewer Likes (B=-1343.9, 95% CI=-2424.4 to -263.4, X=-0.1, P=0.02) and fewer Comments (B=-82.0, 95% CI=-145.9 to -18.2, X=-0.2, P=0.01), compared to posts without links to evidence. The most common areas of health were claims relating to ‘women’s health’ (n=94; 19.0%), and ‘hair, nail and skin’ (n=74; 15.0%).

Conclusion: This study is one of the first to look at the evidence available to support health-related claims by naturopathic influencers on Instagram. Our findings indicate that around half of Instagram posts from popular naturopathic influencers with health claims are supported by high-quality evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-380
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Promotion Perspectives
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • complementary therapies
  • linear models
  • naturopathy
  • social media

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