Readability of influenza information online: Implications for consumer health


Influenza (flu) is pervasive and burdensome. The purpose of this study was to determine the readability levels of online articles related to flu.


Using the search term "influenza," the URL´s of the first 100 English language Web sites were vetted for content to ascertain that the article met inclusion criteria. Five recommended readability tests were conducted using an online service to calculate readability. Overall, the analysis indicates that flu material found on the web is not being written at a level that is widely readable.


None of the 100 sites included in the analysis received an acceptable score on all 5 assessments. One-sample independent t tests (α?=?0.05, df?=?99) indicated that it is highly unlikely that flu Web sites are being written at the desirable level. Of the 100 sampled sites, 33 had a .com, 29 had a .org, and 22 had a .gov extension. Extension type did not play a role in readability level of these sites.


When creating content for the masses, health professionals should maximize their efforts by testing the readability as well as other factors that influence the likelihood that it will be understood.