Readability and quality of online eating disorder information - are they sufficient? A systematic review evaluating websites on anorexia nervosa using DISCERN and Flesch Readability

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Abstract

Objective
Evaluate the quality and readability of United Kingdom‐based websites on anorexia nervosa.

Method
First‐page search results of three search engines (with search term “anorexia nervosa”) were consulted. Websites were excluded if they were pro‐ana, duplications, advertisements, Wikipedia, nonwritten/video, invalid addresses, non‐English, book links, articles/news pages, and discussion forums. Fifteen websites were evaluated on information quality using DISCERN, and on readability using the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) Scale. Spearman's correlations between quality and readability were calculated.

Results
DISCERN‐scores ranged from 34 to 71 (M = 49.27, SD = 9.16), representing “fair” information quality. FRE‐scores ranged from 28 to 64 (M = 42.7, SD = 13.43), representing “difficult” readability. The Royal College of Psychiatrists website (https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/) received the only “excellent” quality rating and was the only website that met the recommended reading level. The other websites' quality varied, and their reading levels ranged from fairly to very difficult.

Conclusion
Website quality scores varied. Oftentimes, information about treatment risks and benefits was lacking, and texts were too complex. Website quality seals could prove beneficial, and web developers should use quality and readability measures to ensure information accessibility. Future research should utilize DISCERN and FRE to evaluate quality and readability of websites pertaining to other eating disorders too.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Early online date7 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2019

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