One Quarter of Americans Misled by Online Info: Survey


One in four Americans (24 percent) say they have been misled by information about an illness or medical symptom from an unverified online source, according to a new survey from Merck Manuals. That figure increases to 30 percent among parents with children under 18 and jumps to 43 percent among millennials (adults age 18-34).

The survey of more than 2,000 US adults conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Merck Manuals also found that 40 percent of Americans are not at all, or not very, confident that the information found on for-profit health websites is credible. Despite this, 33 percent of respondents admit they don't confirm the credibility of an online health site before searching for information.

To help consumers confirm if a website is credible, The Manuals have developed the STANDS method – an easy-to-remember solution using six essential elements:

Source – Does the resource cite recognized authorities and provide their credentials?

Transparent – Is it open and obvious whether the site's mission is educational or commercial?

Accessible – Is the site available without registration and is there a way for users to contact someone with questions or concerns?

Neutral – Is the information available purely as a resource, or does the site benefit financially from what its users do (such as buying products or visiting advertised websites)?

Documented – Is the site updated when needed by recognized medical experts?
Secure – Can users access content without forfeiting personal information?

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