An ESRC-funded study called Bodies Online looked at how people access health information on the Internet. The story was covered by BBC News online.
The study found that participants developed trust in web material over several stages and quickly dismissed poorly designed sites, sites with ads and general portals. While people looked for credible and impartial information, they were also highly influenced by personal stories to which they could relate.
In common with other studies, the participants used the Internet to prepare for visits to their GP. Yet the results also suggested that legitimate sources of information - such as NHS sites - were less likely to be used because they were hard to access and lacked input from others sharing similar concerns.
As the Internet is not going to go away, and is likely to be accessed increasingly by those seeking medical advice, I believe this report underlines the importance of providing health information in an understandable way as well as in specialist terms - putting the humanity into medicine, so to speak.