Health Articles

Psychological tools for wellness / Category / Emile Du Toit / October 24th 2015

There is a serious gluttony of health articles online. Paradoxically though, as more and more health and wellness blogs spring up it is actually becoming harder to find quality information on total health issues. In this health article Tools for Health and Wellness examines the lack of quality control of the wellness information out there. We also provide you with 6 useful steps to picking out the actual quality health and wellness blogs from all the other pseudoscience.

 

 

Gluttony of health articles online

We live in a completely new information age to when I was back at school. The internet has developed in a relatively organised wealth of information about pretty much any topic under the sun. The number of health articles out there is pretty much limitless, and with the advent of the modern smartphone the internet is fast becoming accessible even in the more impoverished areas of the developing world.

Put differently, almost nobody really has an excuse to claim they are uninformed about their health. And with utmost certainty we can declare that none of our readers do… However, the nearly limitless number of articles on total health and wellness is both a strength and weakness in the sacred halls of information gathering. Whilst accessibility to information is well organized by Mr Google and sons, the quality of information is somewhat less so.

 

Health articles: finding the needles in the haystacks

Google creates more and more complex algorithms in an attempt to place a quality control on the information sources it references – and that thus appear in your searches. But ultimately Google is just becoming better and better at creating algorithms and not necessarily at improving the quality of the available information. Algorithms are great for an initial quality control – eradicating the most obviously plagiarized information, or sites that claim to be about one thing but are actually about something completely different (sex, largely), and attempting to regulate the order that sites appear in on their search engines (and thus the amount of publicity they get).

But like with most areas of knowledge out there, what does Google actually know about health? So ultimately the sites that appear highest up in Google search engines either have more money than other sites, or better search engine optimization, or similar. Rather ironically, these are often sites far less interested in the dissemination of vital health information to the masses, but rather on selling something (and sometimes using so-called ‘accurate’ information to con the unsuspecting buyer into making a purchase).

 

No quality control on health and wellness blogs

If you don’t believe me, try a Google search for the name of a specific supplement that you might be interested in. You will find that if you are lucky there might be a Wiki article on it, and possibly one by the NIMH (a good source of information). Mostly though, you will call up a bunch of websites that are selling supplements. And if you read their blurb on these supplements and compare it to one of the few unbiased sources of information what appear on Google page 1 or 2 you will begin to see large discrepancies! Suddenly your efficacious products with zero side effects has begun to creak somewhat, under the weight of all the bullshit written by the sales departments of these sites. And what if you want to find great, unbiased, in-depth and up-to-date information on a supplement from a website that also has a smattering of understanding of stats and research methodology? Quite possibly you will find yourself all the way down on page 7 or so! And who ever gets as far as Google page 3 even?

{As a complete aside, before you next read any health articles on supplements you might want to consider taking a look at our articles on the Placebo Effect, and also Why Placebo Effects are increasing over Time.}

Anyhow, my ever belated point is that the sheer volume of information on health articles is both a blessing and a curse. It means that there is wealth of information splattered across the internet. Yet if you are not too sure where and how to look for health and wellness blogs with unbiased, quality content, then you might return from your journey somewhat impoverished.

 

Tools for Health and Wellness: a quality fish!

Our (entirely unbiased) suggestion for navigating the ocean of health articles on the web would be to start with Tools for Health and Wellness and see if the topic hasn’t been covered here already. If not, drop us a message with your suggestions. Obviously we get a lot of requests and do not always have the time to respond to everyone, but when we can we try to include answers to your questions either in articles on www.toolsforhealthandwellness.com or else in some of our social media posts via:

 https://www.facebook.com/toolsforhealthandwellness

http://www.pinterest.com/TFHAWellness/

https://twitter.com/TFHAWellness

https://www.linkedin.com/company/tools-for-health-and-wellness

https://www.google.com/+Toolsforhealthandwellness

 

6 Steps to finding great health and wellness articles

If it isn’t covered on our website then I recommend the following:

1. If you start with Wiki, NIMH or similar recognized health information sites you can often get a broad level of understanding about your subject. You can then follow their references to more detailed articles.

2. Consider the qualifications of the person writing the article. Do they have a professional degree in that field or a related one? If not a professional, have they at least been practicing in the field for a long period of time? Or are they in fact a random blogger getting in their daily fix of opinion piece writing or worse, a sales person?

3. Don’t be scared of reading research articles – although some require a subscription most of them provide free abstracts that neatly summarise the content.

4. When reading an article always make sure that the website isn’t trying to sell you a product or a book about a product. If they are then rather move on till you find a purely informational site.

5. When reading an article ask yourself the question: ‘are these guys pushing something?’ As an example of this you might want to type in the keywords ‘Banting diet’. Immediately you will call up a host of articles that are either entirely in favour of the diet or regard it as Satan incarnate. Get a sense of the gist of how these articles are constructed: the one sidedness of the information, the emotional overtones, the obvious cherry picking of research, which - either through the cherry picking or deliberate misinterpretation of the research – only supports their claims. Immediately there should be several warning bells going off in your head. As a point of contrast you might want to compare these so-called ‘health articles’ with articles of a similar content such as ‘Are low carb diets better than others diets?’, ‘Research studies: Most effective diets’, ‘How do low carb diets affect the risk of cancer’, ‘How do low carb diets affect the risk of diabetes’ or ‘Low carb diets and cardiovascular disease’.

6. Lastly, you might want to consider the number of references that the articles cite and also reference (if they do not provide access to the research articles – or at the very least the abstracts then you know something is fishy!). If there are only a couple of references then I would be very suspect. Moreover, if there are a ton of references on a strongly debated topic, and they all point uncompromisingly towards the same conclusion then I would move swiftly on.

 

Conclusions about health articles online

In synthesis, there is a near infinite wealth of online information on health and wellness, but the sheer volume of it means that it is a near impossible task for Google to police in terms of quality control. The onus is on you to realize that taking charge of your physical and psychological health requires more than just blinding accepting what you read online!

 

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