Wikipedia unreliable for health information

Be cautious when using Wikipedia for medical advice, warn researchers.
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01.Online health information


Most Wikipedia articles representing serious medical conditions contain many errors, according to a new study published in the peer reviewed Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Researchers identified the 10 most costly medical conditions in the US in terms of public and private expenditure (coronary artery disease, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, back pain hyperlipidemia and concussion) and independently reviewed the Wikipedia entry for each. 

They identified statements of fact – between 28 and 172 within each article – and compared them with peer-reviewed sources to see if they were supported. Between 55% and 100% of the statements checked in each article agreed with the corresponding peer-reviewed literature. However the authors found significant differences in nine of the 10 articles.

There are around 20,000 health articles on Wikipedia, and this study only looked at 10. However anyone can add to and edit the information on Wikipedia and editors don’t need to have specialist knowledge or qualifications. These findings highlight the importance of being cautious when using this website (and the internet in general) to get online health advice.



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