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Only one in four check quality of online health information

An estimated 40 million visits will be made to health websites in Britain in the next week or so as people look to carry out new year's resolutions.

In a survey carried out by Bupa, the leading international healthcare group, 73% of Britons - nearly three quarters - say they go online for health information. More than half of them, 58%, use the information to self diagnose. The problem is only a quarter of people say they check where their online advice has come from.

MHW 2011 icon'This figure is very worrying,' said MHF CEO Peter Baker. 'This is one of the reasons why we've chosen new technology as the theme for Men's Health Week 2011. With smartphones and tablet computers expected to outsell personal computers by 2012, there are more ways to access online health information than ever before. With our Get A Man Online campaign, we want to get more men using these but if they're going to poor sites, it could be doing more harm than good. As well as improving access to the internet, we need to help men to use it more effectively.'

Russians rush online

The British are not the biggest users of the internet for health advice. The Bupa Health Pulse survey questioned more than 12,000 people in Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States and found that 81% of those with internet access use it to search for advice about health, medicines or medical conditions.

Russians search for health advice the most on the internet, followed by China, India, Mexico and Brazil. The French search for online health information the least, according to the survey's findings.

Interestingly, nearly 4 in 10 use it to look for other patients' experiences of a condition. This is a key feature of the MHF's malehealth site.

David McDaid, a senior research fellow at the LSE told Reuters: 'New technologies are helping more people around the world to find out more about their health and to make better informed decisions. However, people need to make sure that the information they find will make them better, not worse.'

'Relying on dodgy information can easily lead to people taking risks with inappropriate tests and treatments, wasting money and causing unnecessary worry,' warned Annabel Bentley, a medical director at Bupa. 'Equally, people may check online and dismiss serious symptoms when they should get advice from a doctor.'

Of course, you don't need to go to Bupa to do this. Your GP is free or you can use reliable, quality websites like malehealth or NHS Choices. If you're not sure about a site, look for its HonCode accreditation - this is an independent standard for trustworthy health information.

Page created on January 5th, 2011

Page updated on June 9th, 2011