The Internet as a health information source for university students

Jonathan Kam et al.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Dr. Jonathan Kam
MBBS (Hons) BMedSc (Hons)
Monash University (2009)

Dr. Daniel Stanszus
MBBS (Hons)
Monash University (2008)

Dr. Jin Jie (Jeffrey) Cheah
MBBS (Hons)
Monash University (2008)

Dr. Neel Heerasing
MBBS (Hons)
Monash University (2008)

Dr. Sheng Yi Tie
Monash University (2008)

Jonathan was awarded an Avant Research Fellowship for his pursuits in medical research in 2008, work which he then travelled to the United States to present. The following year he completed his final year elective at Oxford University in Ophthalmology. He submitted this article to the AMSJ as a final year medical student in 2009, and is currently undertaking his internship at the Alfred Hospital.

Daniel is a Cardiology Resident at Peninsula Health and was awarded Intern of the Year for 2009. Raised on the Mornington Peninsula, he plans to specialise in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care.

Jeffrey was awarded the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Best Surgical Student Prize in 2008. He is currenly a Neurology Resident at Peninsula Health, and plans to specialise as either a Physician or an Anaesthetist.

Neel was awarded the best MBBS Student and Southern Health Prize in 2008. Neel is currently in his first year of Basic Physician Training at Southern health. He plans to specialise in Cardiology.

Sheng is currently completing Basic Physician Training at Peninsula Health. He is focused on a career in Dermatology.


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.