Educating yourself and investigating any concerns you have about your health are critical parts of managing your wellbeing. But with the range of different sources offering information, and the amount of conflicting advice, it can be tough to know what to take on board.
The best place to find reliable health information is from healthcare professionals like your doctor, a pharmacist, or an allied health professional such as a dietitian, physiotherapist or occupational therapist.
Turning to Google can have mixed results — there are some reliable health information websites such as government-endorsed sites (like Healthy Male), condition-specific sites (like beyondblue or Cancer Council), support organisation sites (like the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia) and medical journals. However, there are also plenty of websites that share incorrect, misleading and harmful health information.
Here are some tips for finding trustworthy health information online.
1. Look for trusted sources
When you’re looking at health information, it’s important to understand who is providing it and why. Anyone can post any information on the internet and when you search for something on Google the results are selected by computer software, not human experts.
Health experts and government organisations want you to have the best, most relevant information possible and have processes for checking it’s accurate and up to date. This is not always the case for organisations advertising products or services as they may not provide objective information.
Check out the ‘about us’ section of the website to find out who is running it.
2. Examine the evidence
Reliable health information is based on strong evidence gathered from scientific research. Check if health claims are backed up by studies or endorsed on more than one credible website. Trustworthy websites will tell you where their health information came from, the evidence it’s based on and the date it was written or reviewed.
You should also evaluate the research presented, as one small study is not as reliable as the findings of multiple large-scale studies.
Connecting with other people who have the same health issue can be helpful — whether it’s reading a personal account or interacting on a forum. However, everyone experiences health problems differently and you should not take advice based on one person’s experience.
3. Be wary of red flags
Some signs of unreliable sources of information include websites that ask you to give personal details, create a sense of fear or only give you one option when it comes to making decisions about your health. If a solution or service sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Always chat to a health professional before you make any decisions about your wellbeing and you should ask questions of your healthcare team so that you can fully understand your options. This Men's Health Week we're breaking the barriers to better health for men. You can learn more here.