The Pew Internet and American Life Project’s August survey found that many people go online for health-related information, but few verify the information they receive.
And that can be dangerous not only with respect to generic health information, but also when seeking information about alternative therapies. I’m a believer in informed consumer autonomy; and under certain circumstances, in assumption of risk. But the widespread failure to check the fact can have broader social consequences.
According to the Pew report:
Eighty percent of U.S. Internet users have searched for information on at least one health topic, comparable to 2002 and 2004 surveys despite growth in residential high-speed connections, which have driven increases in other online activities.
Among the online health seekers, 66 percent started at a search engine for their most recent health inquiry, and 72 percent ended up visiting multiple sites for information. About half said they were looking up information for someone else, not themselves.
Most said they felt reassured by what they had found, though many also felt overwhelmed, frustrated or confused.
Only a quarter of the online health seekers said they always or usually check the information’s source and date.