Readability of Online Health Information: A Meta-Narrative Systematic Review

Lubna Daraz, Allison S. Morrow, Oscar J. Ponce, Wigdan Farah, Abdulrahman Katabi, Abdul Majzoub, Mohamed O. Seisa, Raed Benkhadra, Mouaz Alsawas, Prokop Larry, M. Hassan Murad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Online health information should meet the reading level for the general public (set at sixth-grade level). Readability is a key requirement for information to be helpful and improve quality of care. The authors conducted a systematic review to evaluate the readability of online health information in the United States and Canada. Out of 3743 references, the authors included 157 cross-sectional studies evaluating 7891 websites using 13 readability scales. The mean readability grade level across websites ranged from grade 10 to 15 based on the different scales. Stratification by specialty, health condition, and type of organization producing information revealed the same findings. In conclusion, online health information in the United States and Canada has a readability level that is inappropriate for general public use. Poor readability can lead to misinformation and may have a detrimental effect on health. Efforts are needed to improve readability and the content of online health information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-492
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Internet
  • health information
  • health literacy
  • readability
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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