3 Tips for Navigating Health News

Have you been a victim of headline-induced panic? 

If you’ve ever typed symptoms or ingredients into a search engine, you know what I’m talking about. Many of us avoid the news altogether for this very reason!

Does this sound like you? Do you avoid staying in the know because theres just too much doom and gloom?

Take a breath. There’s no sense spiking blood pressure before we even know there’s truly a problem.

I’ve noticed I’m much more able to handle watching the news, scrolling through headlines, and processing new information when I focus on seeking out the verified facts. There’s a LOT of false information out there, guys, and media sources are counting on our eagerness to follow blindly.

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Headlines are designed to grab your attention, but we’re in control of how we let the information affect us. Here are the questions I ask myself to stay calm and level-headed as I navigate trending topics, especially in relation to health:

Is it to share facts about an event/ topic (who, what, when, where, why/ how) and provide equal coverage to all sides of the story?  Or is it purely a juicy headline aiming to obtain a certain number of clicks? All mainstream media organizations are guilty of the latter, but when we chose to click and read on with a degree of skepticism, we prevent ourselves from jumping on the emotional roller coaster.  Think of headlines as a sales pitch- we can chose to hear the sales person out but have the power to say, “no, thank you” at any time.

If I’m going to take the bait and follow that juicy headline, you better believe I want to see evidence to back it up.  If the headline claims a hot detail about a “new study,” I need to see the study, and it better be legitimate.  There are pros and cons to all studies, but an ideal baseline of criteria includes that they are peer-reviewed, evidence based, double-blind, and need to tell how data was collected and compared. ➡️ Recollections from participants are not reliable as the primary data collection because details are often left out and/ or inexact. ⬅️

Who funded whatever is being read or viewed, and how is that reflected in the information?  For example, large corporations/ organizations such as the dairy industry, tobacco industry, and Coca-Cola are know for funding studies that conveniently show data in favor of the products (or certain ingredients in products) marketed by said groups. Study results are quite frequently skewed for marketing purposes, and whoever is funding typically has the final say about what gets published. That’s not something we’d necessarily know without regular fact-checks

Again, skepticism is our friend with all news, but especially when it comes to our health.  If your current approach is read, panic, share to social media, taking a step back and reevaluating might be helpful (and your Facebook friends will likely thank you later)! We all benefit when we aim to be observers of the facts rather than products of hysteria.

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