Days before she walked across William Paterson University’s Commencement stage, Bhavya Yalamanchili’s senior thesis, a project required of all Honors College students on William Paterson University’s campus, earned a special distinction: It was published in an academic journal—the Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet—alongside the work of seasoned researchers and professors across the nation.
However, this wasn’t her first such recognition, but rather Yalamanchili’s sixth journal publication as an undergraduate student at WP.
She says she is “very grateful” for the opportunity to learn from and do research alongside faculty at William Paterson and beyond, as her faculty mentors sometimes partnered with professors elsewhere.
A nursing major, she worked on her senior thesis under the guidance of public health professors Marianne Sullivan and Corey Basch, producing a qualitative study on how chronic pain is presented and discussed on TikTok.
“Understanding the content created by people suffering from inadequately treated conditions, like chronic pain, is important for those involved in caring for such patients,” Yalamanchili argues in her work.
She notes that approximately 20 percent of individuals worldwide are affected by chronic pain. Meanwhile, approximately 21 percent of U.S. adults and close to 50 percent of people ages 18 to 29 in the country use TikTok (based on data reported in 2021).
She studied the top 100 TikTok videos, in English, that discussed chronic pain. Collectively, the 100 sampled videos received 99.1 million views, 13.8 million reactions, more than 167,000 comments, and more than 310,000 shares.
Her findings? The videos were primarily used as a vehicle for young adults to share personal stories of chronic pain — “a form of social support,” Yalamanchili says. More than 75 percent of the videos did not mention, discuss, recommend, or sell treatments, medications, or other solutions.
“Although chronic pain is a condition that largely impacts individuals 65 years and older, the videos were produced largely by young adult patients,” Yalamanchili notes. “As described by the creators, chronic pain is an invisible illness that can be debilitating. Due to this, it is important for health care providers, health policy makers, and educators to understand the impact of chronic pain on young people to address the burden of chronic pain through targeted interventions, and advocacy.”
Four of Yalamanchili’s previously published studies focused on health-related video content and discourse on TikTok. One study focused on YouTube. Her work was conducted with oversight from Professor Basch, for whom Yalamanchili served as a research assistant for two years.
She has examined videos and discourse focused on topics such as Monkeypox, breast cancer, and the hashtag covidnurse, among others, and her work has been included in peer-reviewed publications that include the American Journal of Infection Control, Journal of Community Genetics, and JMIR-Nursing.
“Being able to explore this area of research and develop a passion for research has been one of my greatest joys while at WP,” Yalamanchili says.
Currently, the May 2023 graduate looks forward to beginning her career as a nurse, applying all she’s learned as a student, and hopefully continuing to perform research.
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