Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Prescriptions For Health Advice Online

07.03.2007
When searching for health advice online, consumers often reject websites with high quality medical information in favour of those with a human touch, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Faced with a minefield of information of variable quality, health consumers subject websites to an initial weeding-out process that will eliminate most NHS and drug company websites from the search within a matter of seconds.

The study, carried out by Professor Pamela Briggs at Northumbria University, together with colleagues at both Northumbria and Sheffield Universities, explored how health consumers decide whether or not to trust the information and advice they find online.

The researchers observed the search strategies of people who wanted to find specific health information and advice (about hypertension, menopause and HRT, the MMR vaccine, or generally improving their health and fitness) and found that many websites were dismissed at quite amazing speeds.

“One thing that really put people off was advertising, so people clicked off drug company websites straight away”, explains Professor Briggs. “Generally, the medical information on drug company sites is very accurate but people question the authors’ motivation and agenda. The issue of impartiality is quite crucial in building trust.”

The NHS websites fared little better. Often these were rejected because the first page participants were directed to was a portal or had too much background or generic content. “People don’t have the patience to scroll through pages in order to find something useful. Ease of access is so important”, says Professor Briggs.

Even if a site makes a favourable first impression, it is unlikely to keep our attention if there are no personal stories that we can relate to. People are looking for advice from like-minded people and are drawn to sites such as the charity based DIPEx and ProjectAWARE where they can read about the experiences of other people who have the same problems and concerns.

Despite rejecting many of the more ‘reputable’ sites, participants in this study did manage to find information of reasonable quality. But Professor Briggs warns that our searching strategy has the potential to let us down:

The tendency to particularly trust sites that contain contributions from like-minded peers could have dangerous effects on some groups of consumers, such as those with anorexia, by reinforcing unhealthy behaviour patterns, she explains.

The researchers have developed a set of guidelines for designing engaging and trustworthy sites and have shown that trustworthy sites have more influence on consumer behaviour.

They found that moderate to heavy drinkers who viewed trustworthy websites describing the health risks involved with alcohol consumption reduced their alcohol intake more than those who viewed the same information on a site with untrustworthy features such as adverts or links to pharmaceutical companies.

But the most important advice for those trying to promote health information on-line is to use engaging stories about people with similar experiences. Professor Briggs concludes:

“The great strength of the internet is that you can find people who have had the same problem that you have and see how they have coped with it – to forget about that, or to act as if it’s not happening, is missing the point.”

Annika Howard | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Illinois researchers researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected
21.02.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Polluted air may pollute our morality
08.02.2018 | Association for Psychological Science

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>