Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Online self-injury information often inaccurate, study finds

Date:
March 31, 2014
Source:
University of Guelph
Summary:
People seeking help or information online about cutting and other forms of self-injury are likely finding falsehoods and myths, according to new research. Only about 10 per cent of websites providing information about non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) are endorsed by health or academic institutions. It's a troubling finding, says the lead author. "This is a salient public health issue," he said.

People seeking help or information online about cutting and other forms of self-injury are likely finding falsehoods and myths, according to new research from the University of Guelph.

Only about 10 per cent of websites providing information about non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) are endorsed by health or academic institutions, according to a study published recently in JAMA Pediatrics, a journal of the American Medical Association.

It's a troubling finding, says lead author Stephen Lewis, a Guelph psychology professor. "This is a salient public health issue," he said.

People who engage in NSSI -- especially adolescents and young adults -- often turn to the Internet first when looking for help, support, or resources.

"It's a stigmatizing issue for many people and it's quite misunderstood, so going online is often more appealing to them in terms of getting information," Lewis said.

"Unfortunately, much of the information we found on the Internet is of poor quality, and some of it propagates myths about people who self-injure, which may lead to further stigmatization and isolation."

What people find online may also affect decisions to seek help, he said.

NSSI, which can include cutting, burning and bruising, affects an estimated 14 to 21 per cent of teens and young adults. Teenagers typically self-injure to deal with negative emotions, Lewis said, and the behaviour can lead to physical injuries, scarring and mental health difficulties.

Lewis and Guelph graduate students Jasmine Mahdy, Natalie Michal and Alexis Arbuthnott set out to learn how often people search online for information about NSSI and to assess the quality of available information.

They used a Google keywords program to identify 92 terms related to NSSI that receive least 1,000 hits a month. For each term, they focused on content from the first page of websites displayed in search results.

"We focused on the first page because often people don't get beyond that when doing online searches," Lewis said.

The researchers found that about 22 percent of websites were health information websites. Of these, only one in 10 was endorsed by a health or academic institution.

They also found at least one myth about NSSI on each website, such as linking self-injury to mental health or gender or calling it an attention-seeking act.

Specifically, almost half of websites said people with NSSI have mental illness; about 40 per cent said people who self-injure have a history of abuse; and 37 per cent said mostly women self-injured. All are untrue or overstatements of what is known from research, Lewis said.

The researchers found more than 42 million global searches of NSSI-related terms on the Internet in the past year.

"We were a bit surprised by the number of searches related to the topic but more surprised at how much of the information we came across was of low quality," Lewis said.

Besides exposing people who self-injure to unreliable and inaccurate information, misinformation affects people trying to help, he said.

"Parents, peers and others looking to help someone with NSSI may also be seeking information online, and what they are finding may be impacting their effectiveness as sources of support."

The study recommends getting credible sites onto the top of search pages, improving the quality of online information and educating Internet users on how to make sense of e-health information.

"The Internet potentially is a powerful vehicle to reach out to those who self-injure and offer help and recovery resources," Lewis said. "But we have to do it effectively and correctly."

Last year, he and McGill University professor Nancy Heath launched the Self-Injury Outreach and Support (SiOS) website (http://sioutreach.org/). It was the first international online initiative offering recovery support and resources for people with NSSI and for friends, families, and school and health professionals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Guelph. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen P. Lewis, Jasmine C. Mahdy, Natalie J. Michal, Alexis E. Arbuthnott. Googling Self-injury. JAMA Pediatrics, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.187

Cite This Page:

University of Guelph. "Online self-injury information often inaccurate, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331114336.htm>.
University of Guelph. (2014, March 31). Online self-injury information often inaccurate, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331114336.htm
University of Guelph. "Online self-injury information often inaccurate, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331114336.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus

Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus

AP (July 30, 2014) Scientists in Texas are studying the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people across West Africa this year. Right now, the disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60 percent. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins