A PSA to my fellow hypochondriacs: Wikipedia is not a good source for medical information. I repeat: you shouldn’t really use Wikipedia as a real source of serious medical information.
A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that Wikipedia is significantly less reliable than peer-tested academic research. By analyzing the 10 costliest diseases’ Wikipedia pages and actual peer-reviewed research, the study concluded:
“The findings of their study demonstrate that assertions (facts) presented in Wikipedia for these medical conditions were mostly in discordance with peer-reviewed literature. These results cast serious doubt on Wikipedia’s authority as a medical reference repository.”
I mean, you probably know that to some extent. It’s in the back of your mind when our hair itches at night, and then you find two hairs on our pillow, and before you know it, you’re reaching for your iphone, googling “disease where you lose your hair really fast,” and you find yourself convinced you have alopecia areata. Then the next thing you know, you open a new browser window on your phone and search, “good wigs that look like JLaw's hair.” Not that I’ve ever done that. I dare you to try and find it in my browser history.
But I digress. When we have those moments, I think we all kind of know, deep in our subconscious, that Wikipedia is not science. But we’ve all heard about how bad WebMd is, what’s a mature adult to do?
It should be noted that there are two concerns with the study. The first is that the medical scientists who conducted the study have an invested interest, and as such might have been more critical than a study conducted by researchers less invested. Also, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association cautions that the validity of the peer-review studies were not clarified.
The study recommends,“Wikipedia has a place in literature searching, but it is best used as a starting point rather than an ending point.”
Oh, ok, so just be sure to spend a few hours reading actual peer-reviewed research after Wikipedia convinces you that you have early onset osteoporosis.