“LIKE, COMMENT AND SUBSCRIBE”. EXPLORING THE ROLE PROFESSIONAL YOUTUBERS PLAY IN YOUNG PEOPLE’S HEALTH BEHAVIOURS AND IDENTITES IN THE UK
Keywords:health promotion, health behaviour, young people, YouTube, YouTubers
In the United Kingdom, there are over 150 individual YouTubers with >1 million subscribers. A significant proportion of their audience are aged between 13-18 years. The content they produce is often: commercially sponsored, unregulated and both purposefully and accidentally touches on a whole range of health topics including: mental health, alcohol, sexual health, body image, healthy eating and physical activity. YouTubers could represent a particularly relatable source of health information for young people as a magnified version of young people’s own searchable and replicable online socially networked lives. The aim of the research is to explore the role that professional YouTubers play in young people health behaviours and identities in the UK. The study was a four stage, sequential mixed methods design. The first stage, a school based questionnaire (n=931, 13-18 years) quantified young people’s YouTuber engagement and provided a sampling frame for the later qualitative stages. An online analysis of 7 UK YouTubers examined the health content they produced. Focus groups (n=7, 85 participants) with 13-18 year olds explored the impact this content had on young people’s health behaviours and interviews with professional YouTubers ( <1 million subscribers, ongoing) explored their perceived role in health promotion. YouTuber produced health content appeared to be a recognized source of health information for young people in this study. Young people appeared able to critique the accuracy and commercial influences on YouTuber content. However, this content still appears to be a relatable way of sharing health experiences, giving advice and communicating social norms.