In the era of COVID, we’re encountering a particularly large amount of health information every day. The World Health Organization, an agency within the United Nations that works to promote global health, calls the situation we’re experiencing now an “infodemic.” By this, they mean when too much information, both correct and incorrect, is spreading throughout the media and offline. Studies have shown that health misinformation can be widely circulated and even become more popular than factual information.
Misinformation is a problem, especially during a global pandemic. When you believe incorrect information about your health, you put yourself at risk. You may even be putting others at risk. In order to make good decisions for your health and wellbeing, it’s important to get the right information.
Stay Safe by Staying Informed
Consuming incorrect health information can lead you to make potentially harmful choices. When you’re experiencing a health issue, you may feel compelled to research your symptoms online. And, while there is plenty of factual information online, you can also encounter misinformation. Anyone can post things on the internet. Whether or not it’s true is a different story.
Consuming misinformation can discourage people from complying with important health measures. Research has shown that people who view news sources that underemphasize the significance of the COVID pandemic were more likely to contract the virus because they didn’t follow public health measures. Learn how to avoid COVID misinformation and keep yourself safe.
Reliable Information Keeps You (and Others!) Safe
When you only rely on factual and high-quality information, you can ensure you’re accurately informed. Your personal health is something you don’t want to take chances on. Being informed can give you peace of mind that you have enough information to make the right choices. You can be adequately prepared to respond appropriately and lessen the likelihood of putting yourself or others at risk.
How to Find Reliable Health Information about Covid-19
Read and trust reliable sources like the CDC and other reputable sources. Reliable medical information is going to be based on peer-reviewed, evidence-based science.
Research. If you come across information from a source that you don’t recognize, do a Google search. If the organization or person is unheard of or if you get mixed results, it might not be a trustworthy source. What’s the purpose of the website? Does it set out to provide readers with health information? Who is the author? What are their credentials? Think back to doing research in high school or college: would your teachers approve of you using this source or not? If not, don’t trust it.
Think about how the information is presented. Misinformation is commonly spread through advertisements and personal stories. Trusted health websites go in-depth on topics, cite relevant sources (see the next point), and present clear information.
Make sure they cite their sources. Do the authors cite research from reliable sources? Scientists search for the truth. They study things multiple times to make sure their findings are accurate. If your source cites sources that are trusted science organizations, you can be more confident that claims are based in the truth.
Don’t buy into sensationalism. Is the source trying hard to be entertaining? Or do they use words that inspire unreasonable fear? You may want to take a second look. Studies have shown that medical disinformation often appears in media that has a personal or opinionated tone. They also can use fear to persuade you to listen.
Evaluate the purpose. Why did someone put together this piece of medical information? Why are they spreading it? Does the source have a reason to persuade you (to sell something or to get followers)? How will they profit from you believing them? If they have some stake in you believing their information, they may be motivated by money or popularity rather than offering legitimate information.
Find more than one source. When you’re looking for an answer online, check multiple different reliable sources. Don’t just accept the first thing you read. If there is a consensus about a topic among multiple reliable sources, it’s more likely that you’re reading factual information.
Use common sense. If you feel like something is sketchy, take a closer look. Things like tone, typos, unknown sources, strange ads, or unexpected pop-ups can be a sign that this isn’t a reliable source for health information.
Always ask your doctor. If you have questions about your personal health, talk to your health care provider. Self-diagnosing is often inaccurate. If you are unsure about your doctor’s diagnosis, you can always get a second opinion.
Get your health information from trusted sources. Here is a list of reliable health websites:
- The Mayo Clinic is a Minnesota-based nonprofit medical and research center.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a nonprofit organization that works to promote mental health around the U.S.
- The National Institutes for Health is a website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- The World Health Organization (WHO).
- The Health on the Net Foundation certifies health information websites that are credible. Sources with this credential are reliable.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a government agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Managing your Mental Health during Covid-19
If you’re feeling extra stressed during the pandemic or find yourself struggling with mental illness, that’s totally normal. If you are ready to get help, call Guild’s Community Access team at (651) 925-8490.
Learn more about our mental health services.
COVID Misinformation is Killing People, Scientific American.
How to Find Credible Mental Health Information Online, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute.
Mental Health Conditions, National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Managing the COVID-19 Infodemic, World Health Organization.
Systematic Literature Review on the Spread of Health-Related Misinformation on Social Media, U.S. National Library of Medicine.