Quality of web-based information on social phobia: a cross-sectional study

Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(5):461-5. doi: 10.1002/da.20381.


The objective of the study is to evaluate the quality of web-based information on social phobia and to investigate particular quality indicators. Two keywords, "Social phobia" and "Social Anxiety Disorder", were entered into five popular World Wide Web search engines. Websites were assessed with a standardized proforma designed to rate sites on the basis of accountability, presentation, interactivity, readability, and content quality. "Health On the Net" (HON) quality label and DISCERN scale scores aiding people without content expertise to assess quality of written health publication were used to verify their efficiency as quality indicators. This study evaluates the quality of web-based information on social phobia. On the 200 identified links, 58 were included. On the basis of outcome measures, the overall quality of the sites turned out to be poor. DISCERN and HON label were indicators of good quality indicators. Accountability criteria were poor indicators of site quality. Although social phobia education Websites for patients are common, educational material highly varies in quality and content. There is a need for better evidence-based information about social phobia on the Web and a need to reconsider the role of accountability criteria as indicators of site quality. Clinicians should advise patients of the HON label and DISCERN as useful indicators of site quality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Health Education / standards*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • Social Responsibility
  • United States