A quantitative analysis of the quality and content of the health advice in popular Australian magazines

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine how health advice is provided in popular magazines and the quality of that advice.

Methods:

A prospective quantitative analysis of the quality of health advice provided in Australian magazines between July and December 2011 was conducted. A rating instrument was adapted from the Media Doctor Australia rating tool used to assess quality of health news reporting. Criteria included: recommends seeing a doctor; advice based on reliable evidence; advice clear and easily applied; benefits presented meaningfully; potential harms mentioned; evidence of disease mongering; availability and cost of treatments; obvious advertising; vested interest, and anecdotal evidence.

Results:

163 health advice articles were rated showing a wide variation in the quality of advice presented between magazines. Magazines with ‘health’ in the title, rated most poorly with only 36% (26/73) of these articles presenting clear and meaningful advice and 52% (38/73) giving advice based on reliable evidence.

Conclusions:

Australian magazines, especially those with health in the title, generally presented poor quality, unreliable health advice. Teen magazine Dolly provided the highest quality advice.

Implications:

Consumers need to be aware of this when making health choices.

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