News Flash: Wikipedia Is A Horrible Place To Get Medical Information

ImacPhoto: Courtesy Of Wikipedia.
For hypochondriacs (and those of us who just like to know what's going on in our bodies), the Internet is a blessing and a curse. The sheer volume of information makes it possible to learn everything there is to know about a given condition or set of symptoms — which can either allay our health fears or make them much, much worse. Of course, the democratic nature of the Internet allows certain extraneous "facts" to be given the same amount of weight as actual, bona-fide, peer-reviewed research. With so many voices competing for attention, it can be difficult to tell what's real and what's not.
Advertisement
A new study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association suggests that one of our go-to sources belongs firmly in the latter (NOT real) category. Researchers compared Wikipedia articles on the 10 most costly medical conditions in the U.S. (including depression, heart disease, and diabetes) to peer-reviewed, published studies on the same topics (aggregated on PubMed, UpToDate, and Google Scholar). The researchers found that, with the exception of the entry on concussions, the Wikipedia articles "contained assertions that are inconsistent with peer-reviewed sources." In other words, nine out of 10 entries contained claims that didn't match up with the proven ones.
Of course, by its very DIY nature, Wikipedia is bound to be less-than-accurate (or complete) when compared to academic research. But, this study does beg the question: If Wikipedia is totally useless for information on medical conditions, how much more reliable are other sources of online medical info? It's pretty clear that if you have a health concern, the convenient, fast-'n'-easy route is probably not the most legitimate one. You'd probably be better off just asking your GP — that is, unless you have the time and patience it takes to pore over all those peer-reviewed studies on Google Scholar.
Advertisement

More from Body

Brittany Mostiller still remembers the moment when she realized that she couldn’t afford an abortion. “I didn’t know anything about this Hyde Amendment ...
Earlier this year, Lena Dunham was hospitalized to treat a ruptured ovarian cyst, unintentionally shedding light on an often ignored area of women's health...
If your eyes tend to glaze over at first mention of the latest Health Hack That Will Change Your Life, we can’t really blame you. Although we are literally...
Pregnant women get a lot of advice about motherhood, even when they don't ask for it. And in the first episode of Expecting, from Refinery29's comedy ...
We're in plus-size pool party heaven
Summer is over (for real). So it's time to face the facts: You're going to get a cold. Actually, you're probably going to get colds — plural. The average ...
The pelvic exam — complete with the stirrups and the speculum — isn't anyone's favorite thing about having a vagina. But it's really important because it's...
(Paid Content) Stress sweat is different from regular sweat in that it feeds off bacteria and causes odor. Then you start to think about it — producing ...
A few years ago, two Michigan urologists noticed a curious pattern among their patients: Upon returning from a Disney World vacation, patients would ...
It shouldn't be this complicated, all this body stuff: size discrimination, weight bias, the multi-factioned movement fighting to reverse it. At its core ...
On principle, I am skeptical of any internet health recommendation that has the word “challenge” tacked on to the end of it. These wellness fads come and...
Although he had been dead for decades, Jim Morrison said something a few years ago that shocked people. He wasn’t speaking from beyond the grave, but in ...
In April, I ran a story called “The Medium-Sized Woman Problem.” The “problem,” of course, was not the women themselves, but the way in which we frame ...
Jill Krause writes about all things mom, parenting, and relationships at her blog, Baby Rabies, and she has some words of advice for the non-pregnant ...