Readability of online health information pertaining to migraine and headache in the UK

Kate Atherton, Mark J. Forshaw, Tara M. Kidd

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An estimated 46% of the worldwide adult population live with an active headache disorder, and it is thought that there is a proportion of headache and migraine sufferers who do not attend for medical care, instead choosing to manage their symptoms at home. The internet continues to act as a source of online health information for self-management, however, it is important that this information can be understood by the user. Research indicates that most health information online is written at a level too difficult for much of the UK population to understand. The aim of this study was to investigate the readability of online health information pertaining to headache and migraine for a UK-based internet user accessing the top four search engines. Searches for ‘headache’ and ‘migraine’ were performed on each search engine and results from the first page were selected for analysis. Five validated readability tests were used to analyse readability; Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Flesch Reading Ease, Gunning Fog Index, Coleman-Liau Index and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook Index. We found that the majority of online health information about migraine and headache is too difficult for the UK adult population to read. Findings highlight work is required to ensure that information from a wider variety of sources is easier to comprehend for much of the population in order for individuals to make informed decisions about health seeking and self-management of headache and migraine. Health information providers should weave readability analysis into their content design process, incorporating shorter sentences and simpler words in their description of conditions and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Pain
Early online date18 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2022


  • Headache
  • migraine
  • online health information
  • search engines
  • self-management
  • self-care
  • readability


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