Diligently uncovering information through research is a smart move in my mind. Blindly believing all of the information that your research generates, however, isn’t very wise. Why, you may ask? Not all information is created equally, that’s why. In fact, some information is just that: Created (aka Made Up).
The Internet is a wonderful source of information. Almost anything you want to know is just a Google search away. When it comes to health-and-wellness information, individuals have a myriad of sites to choose from when they’re looking for something. The elephant in the room, however, is that you may not know what information to trust or not. We–as consumers of information–may not have the appropriate context with which to judge the information’s veracity.
That’s why, when I read a summary of a recent survey about how the 89% of the 178 million Americans that go online each month have used the Internet for health research I get a bit nervous.
Other findings of the survey include:
- The primary reason for going online for health information was to gain general knowledge about a condition (71%), followed by researching symptoms that either the individual or someone else was experiencing (59%);
- 56% of respondents said a healthcare professional recommendation makes a health website trustworthy, followed by 46% who said the inclusion of academic articles or scientific research does, and 39% who said having information that is easy to understand does;
- 79% said that they felt the Internet provides a wealth of resources when they are searching for health-and-wellness information, while 74% said they were very cautious about which websites they accessed for health-and-wellness information; and
- For those recently diagnosed with a condition, 77% said they first turned to online sources for information, second only to 81% who said they turned to a healthcare professional. Nearly 51% relied on magazines, pamphlets or other print publications.
It’s not at all that I’m a Luddite; I have a blog after all. I just want all of us to be careful with what we believe just because it’s online. We need to understand the context of the information. We need to do our research on the research to ensure that it’s accurate and trustworthy. Do your homework. Talk to your primary care physician (which, on average, we don’t do enough). Trust, but verify. You owe it to yourself and your health.