Original Research Articles

The Internet as a health information source for university students


As the prevalence of those seeking health information online rises, the potential for information overload and misinformation increases. This study aims to evaluate and explore the Internet’s role as a health information source, specifically for university students. In total, 120 university students were surveyed for their behaviours and attitudes when accessing online health information. Of the respondents, 61% had used the Internet as a personal health information source at least once in the past and 34% do so at least once a month. In comparison with other common information sources, the Internet was the third most commonly used (41%) behind General Practitioners (73%) and family and friends (60%). Despite this frequency of use, only 5% of participants regarded the Internet to be very accurate, while 27.5% had found health information on the Internet to be misleading. Online health advice had delayed appropriate medical treatment at least once for 28% of participants.  Both information inaccuracy and treatment delay pose risks to health outcomes. The findings from this research provide a useful starting point for future research into Australian Internet health information seeking behaviour.