Adolescent anxiety and TikTok: An exploratory study

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Social media is ubiquitous in adolescents' lives. TikTok is a medium primarily used by adolescents and young adults under 30 years. TikTok is thus an appropriate social media platform with which to examine discussions of anxiety among this age cohort. In this exploratory mixed-methods study we aimed to evaluate the scope of anxiety content available on TikTok in English in December 2021, and to further develop methods for analysing TikTok content. 


 We analysed a data set of 147 TikToks with the hashtag #anxiety. The data set consisted both of metadata and TikTok videos. This data set represented 18% of all TikToks featuring the hashtag #anxiety in December 2021. We examined the following research questions (RQs). RQ1: What are the creator identities reflected in the final data set in this study?; RQ2: What are the metadata characteristics of the TikToks in the final data set?; RQ3: What are the anxiety content themes in the final data set?; and RQ4: What are the characteristics of the data set based on an anxiety management reference checklist? This study involves public data that can reasonably be observed by strangers. This study does not include any identifiable human participants. Results Influencers were the most frequent creator identity in our data set. Influencers comprised 85.5% of the 147 TikToks in our final data set. We coded 79 female (54%) and 45 male (31%) influencers. We found male influencers created the most played (mean 8,114,706), and most liked (mean 1,510,585) TikToks. We found content themes varied by influencer gender. The notable findings were (a) the greater use of humour by males (22.7% males; n=10, and females 12.6%; n=10); and (b) inspiration (38.7%; males n=17; and 13.9%; females n=11). Among female influencers, we identified self-disclosure as the most common theme (n= 40 and 50.7% compared with n=11 and 25% male influencers). Overall, we found limited references to evidence-based anxiety self-care content in our final data set.


 We suggest that the TikToks in our data set were primarily directed at raising awareness of and de-stigmatising anxiety symptoms. TikTok anxiety content may be viewed by adolescents for emotional self-regulation beyond evidence-based health information seeking. Self-disclosure on TikTok may also provide symptomatic relief to adolescents with anxiety. We suggest that gender is a salient consideration when considering TikTok content. 


Our findings are consistent with existing literature on adolescent social media use and epidemiological data on anxiety. This research also provides methodological insights for researchers and clinicians seeking to understand TikTok, and to develop engaging content targeted at the specific concerns and preferences of adolescent TikTok consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32530
Number of pages14
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2022


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