Are you dependent on Internet search engines for gathering health information? The results are mostly inaccurate and misleading, a new study has said.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences checked the accuracy of information on infant sleep safety available on the Internet, using Google and found some astonishing results.

Out of 1300 website results that were analysed, 43.5 per cent provided accurate information, 28.1 per cent provided inaccurate information, and 28.4 per cent provided information that was not relevant to infant sleep safety.

“It is important for health care providers to realise the extent to which parents may turn to the Internet for information about infant sleep safety and then act on that advice, regardless of the reliability of the source,” Paediatrician and researcher at Children’s National Medical Center, Rachel Y Moon said.

When the websites that were not relevant were excluded, 60.8 per cent of the websites provided accurate information.

The findings showed that government and organisational websites had the highest percentage of accurate information 80.1 per cent and 72.5 per cent, respectively.

Blogs, retail product reviews, and individuals’ websites had the highest percentage of inaccurate information regarding infant sleep safety, (30.9 per cent, 36.2 per cent, and 45.5 per cent, respectively).

News websites were accurate only one-half of the time.

Previous researches showed 59 per cent of the US population using Internet searches for health information, and parents searching for information regarding their children were among the top users.

According to the study, 72 per cent of adults thought that they could believe most or all of the health information on the Internet, and 70 per cent of adults said that information that they found on the Internet impacted their health or their actions pertaining to their health or the health of their children.

(This article was published on August 4, 2012)
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