Misled by Online Health Sites?

Seniors are getting connected to the internet. With the increased use of the internet, seniors need to be careful when researching health issues on-line. What can you do to not not be misled by online health sites?

A new report released by Statistics Canada shows that Canadians are quick adopting life online. Now 83 per cent of Canadians over 16 years if age are internet users. This is an 80 per cent increase from 2010.

Seniors are also embracing the connected age with 48 per cent using the internet – a 20 per cent increase over the last two years. Statistics Canada says that it is only a matter of time until seniors are no longer lagging other age groups in discovering a new digital lifestyle.

What are people doing online? Online shopping grew 24 per cent to $18.9 billion in 2012. The internet was used by 56 per cent of people to order goods and services while 77 per cent researched goods and services on the web.

Health information, goods and services are plentiful on the internet. It can be difficult to discern reliable sources from fraudulent and dangerous ones. A person can easily be convinced by fantastic health claims especially if they are not seeing progress in a chronic health issue.

Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of Medicine
Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of Medicine (Photo credit: epSos.de)

What can you watch for to ensure that your are not getting played?

Make sure the source is reliable. Does it come from a well recognized institution or group like the Mayo Clinic? Do recognized disease groups like Canadian Cancer Society endorse them? One red flag is having ONE doctor recommend a product or service. Good health science relies on consensus of opinion from multiple sources of corroborating evidence. Look for those – not the one of.

Avoid internet pharmacies. It may be tempting to order a drug because of its lower price. However, beware. There is no guarantee that the advertised pill contains the drug your are wanting. They may be selling a pill with a similar drug, not the advertised quantity or quality or simple a sugar pill with no active ingredient.

Is the claim linked to a product or service. If a health claim is made that is directly linked to a product or service they are selling, it may be a scam. One way to tell if the claim is reliable is if they specifically reference a published scientific study. They may point to a pilot study to establish credibility. A rule of thumb is to look for the number of people in the study. Anything less than 50 is dubious.

When it comes to health information, products and services, you want to ensure you are getting the best advice instead of falling prey to quackery and fraudulent sales pitches. On the internet it really is a buyer beware environment.

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