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Readability of online COVID-19 health information and advice

Bould, K and Forshaw, MJ (2022) Readability of online COVID-19 health information and advice. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education. pp. 1-21. ISSN 1463-5240

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Open Access URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/14635240.2022.2098160 (Published version)


Readability is a systematic measure of ease, with which written information can be read and understood. It can affect the reader’s ability to access, comprehend, and utilize health information. This study assessed the readability of online COVID-19 information readily available to the public to engage with. At a time when organisations and institutions were rapidly providing advice and reacting to a developing pandemic, it was hypothesised that some of that haste would be associated with a lack of clarity, as measured by readability indices. N = 65 website sources containing information relating to COVID-19 were accessed and assessed for inclusion in the study. Eight readability indices, including Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, were calculated to determine readability scores for each source of information. Readability scores varied greatly between individual sources of COVID-19 information. Despite the recommendation that information be presented to the general public at a sixth-grade reading level, most websites we assessed addressing COVID-19 information and advice presented content at greater than the recommended reading level. Based on these results, a significant amount of information available on the Internet about COVID-19 will not be easily readable for many individuals attempting to use the Internet to help inform their decisions about their health and behavior.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Public Health; 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Divisions: Psychology (from Sep 2019)
Publisher: Informa UK Limited
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2022 10:40
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 11:30
DOI or ID number: 10.1080/14635240.2022.2098160
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17249
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