Study: Majority of Wikipedia’s Health Entries Are Terrifyingly Wrong



You know how people say you should never EVER google your symptoms when you’re sick? You know, because they think the Internet is full of lies? Well, shocker: it turns out, the Internet really is full of lies, especially when it comes to health-related information. A recent study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that, when it comes to the costliest medical conditions in the U.S., nine out of 10 Wikipedia entries are inaccurate. Yikes.

For the study, researchers chose 10 crowd-sourced Wikipedia articles on the 10 costliest medical conditions in the country: coronary artery disease, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, back pain, hyperlipidemia and concussions. They got 10 reviewers, all medical residents or interns, to compare each Wikipedia article to peer-reviewed sources. The reviewers found that a whopping 90 percent of the Wikipedia articles—all except the article on concussions—contained a significant amount of errors when checked against peer-reviewed sources.

So seriously, do not employ Wikipedia as your medical guru. And don’t let your doctor check Wikipedia, either: According to a recent article in The Atlantic, 50 percent of physicians use Wikipedia for health-related information. But hopefully not after reading this: The study encourages doctors who use Wikipedia as a reference to quit it, stat, saying, “Our findings reinforce the idea that physicians and medical students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors.”

So, in short: You can maybe trust Wikipedia to give you the scoop on Faye Dunaway’s childhood, but don’t count on the search engine for any trustworthy medical advice.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: