Public Health and Online Misinformation: Challenges and Recommendations

Annu Rev Public Health. 2020 Apr 2:41:433-451. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040119-094127. Epub 2019 Dec 24.


The internet has become a popular resource to learn about health and to investigate one's own health condition. However, given the large amount of inaccurate information online, people can easily become misinformed. Individuals have always obtained information from outside the formal health care system, so how has the internet changed people's engagement with health information? This review explores how individuals interact with health misinformation online, whether it be through search, user-generated content, or mobile apps. We discuss whether personal access to information is helping or hindering health outcomes and how the perceived trustworthiness of the institutions communicating health has changed over time. To conclude, we propose several constructive strategies for improving the online information ecosystem. Misinformation concerning health has particularly severe consequences with regard to people's quality of life and even their risk of mortality; therefore, understanding it within today's modern context is an extremely important task.

Keywords: fake news; health; misconceptions; misinformation; social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication*
  • Data Accuracy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Information Literacy*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data*