I see lots of active people complaining for unjustified and uncommented downvotes, questions that are easily closed, answers that are removed by mods (while the normal behaviour should be that users just downvote them, or even better, simply give better answers), lots of complains about negativity on health.SE and people that are literally running away from this site: in the first days there were a lot of questions and answers, now much less.

Do you feel something is going wrong on this website?


Can we change our mods here? "I'm one of the first users during private beta who was trying to help here by keeping the beta alive.. I've been banned for a week for unclear reasons.. my answers on which I've spent several hours got removed.. the site is badly managed and people are not encouraged enough.. If we won't change anything, this site would be dead very soon.." by kenorb

Does this site want to succeed? "In my experience here, there has been a lot of negativity; down votes, not happy about this or that. To me it feels like the community is trying to set such high standards and narrow scope that it is strangling it's self." by James Jenkins

Why did my comment get deleted? When the user Franck Dernoncourt put togheter the links of people complaining - just as I am doing now - his comment got deleted

Should my answers get removed, because of my personal style? kenorb complains about removal of his answer. I feel users' downvotes are designed to blame an answer, while mods shouldn't syndicate on the contents of answers. Use of mod powers to remove trolls' answers is correct, but stating what is "the truth" is abuse.

What is the current reason of answer removal: 'symptoms and how migraine is categorised'? Again: an answer being removed because only partially answered to the question. kenorb: "If people don't like my answer or characteristics, down-vote it or comment with suggestions, but not removing it"

Should mod remove answers which doesn't address all sub-questions? Again: the user thinks his answer is correct, or at least good enough to be kept alive; mods don't think so; mods remove the questions while the correct behaviour should have been to 1) comment encouraging to improve the answer, or in case of laziness 2) downvoting, but never deleting.

What's wrong with my answer to cold in summers with nose bleeding issues? Again: contents of the answer are syndicated and the answer is deleted, while it should be just downvoted or helped to be improved through comments.

What are the benefits of eating food - closed? Question closed for being "too broad" but apparently not broader than other questions that are happily alive on the website. Again: problems rise when users want to state "the truth" by downvoting and closing other users' questions, while positive behaviour should be "live and let live": if somebody asked that question it's because he thinks it's useful, please respect this.

Do we need to explain self-explanatory quotes? Again: abuse of deleting power. stackexchange is designed to rely on crowd's upvotes and downvotes, mods shouldn't judge too quickly what is "not perfect".

Question that should not be closed is being closed is an example of Should we try to reword "personalized" questions instead of closing? : "On a site like Health, there will often likely be a temptation to close questions as being too personal, and not answerable because the advice would be too specific to that one person. I think we should try to be as useful as possible, and wherever possible, edit the question to reword it so that it is generic enough to be answered on this site rather than just closed." by Jez

What to do when the close voters don't comment? Users voting to close, without commenting.

Should I delete my account as an Ayurvedic physician? Unconfortable feelings by ayurvedic physician: he complained that his answers get often downvoted for lacking reference.

https://health.meta.stackexchange.com/a/70/120 "the community seems very hostile and negative at the moment in my opinion.. the site tends to be more off putting them welcoming" by user139 who ran away from the site

What are the most likely essential amino acids to be deficient in a vegan diet? Apparently too specific for somebody who wants me to add questions (jiggunjer) that I'm not interested to ask; too broad for somebody else (JohnP). After some chatting it appeared that it just needed to be reworded. I got 4 downvotes before rewording from "which amino acids might be lacking in a vegan diet" to "what are the most likely essential amino acids to be deficient in a vegan diet".

Which waste residues accumulate into the liver? How to get rid of them? This is something it often happened to me: you can't just ask things you don't know on health.SE: you must provide reference in your question. you get downvotes and you make so much research that you finally end up answering your own question. I don't think this is the proper way it should work. I have te feeling you're only allowed to ask things you already know the answer, otherwise it will banned as "too broad".

The same here: Can food be addictive? I was not allowed to ask about "food addiction" ("too broad"), I could only choose between "sugar addiction" and "starch addiction", while most of research is not making such difference.

NOTE: I only searched on "meta". I'm sure that more examples can be found in health.SE

  • 2
    downvoting a question means it's not legitimate to ask. if you disagree with the point expressed please give an answer as anongoodnurse did.
    – Attilio
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:22
  • 4
    On all Stack Exchange metas (as opposed to the main sites), downvoting a question means that the downvoter disagrees with the point expressed. See the help at health.stackexchange.com/help/whats-meta, in the middle there is the heading "voting is different on meta". Writing an answer (and upvoting an existing one which you agree with) is still an option, but upvotes and downvotes express agreement with the question's suggestion, they don't concern the question's legitimacy.
    – rumtscho
    Jun 3, 2015 at 14:58
  • 1
    @rumtscho I read it's only about questions labeled as "feature-request". Am I reading wrong? but still, downvoting doesn't help to understand nor solve an evident conflict, while answering may lead to a solution.
    – Attilio
    Jun 3, 2015 at 15:06
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    Yes, it's still pretty much sick for me after over half an year.
    – kenorb
    Oct 14, 2015 at 9:31
  • 1
    Make it one year… May 2, 2016 at 17:10
  • Year and a half.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Dec 5, 2016 at 22:52
  • @CareyGregory 6.5 years now. You became a diamond mod almost 2 years after you wrote that last comment. Do you feel any of the problems with this site have improved since then? Jan 16, 2022 at 3:35
  • @user1271772 Don't you have something better to do than stalk me on meta and criticize a site you have never participated in, contributed nothing to, and actually know little about? Leave me alone.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 16, 2022 at 4:58

7 Answers 7


Is Health.SE sick?

I think it's way too early to tell.

In keeping with your health metaphor: the site gestated in Area 51 and private beta. That's a relatively quiet time, the disagreements not visible to many. It's kind of "being born" now, and there are certainly associated birthing pains. I imagine many sites go through much the same thing.

A site has to have a vision for itself, or all it will ever do is flounder. We've all been attempting to do this, and will continue to do so for a while to come, with questions such as OMG… A site about Health?, How much overlap should there be with biology.SE?, Should we require references to back up all answers?, What are reliable sources?, Are personal medical advice questions on topic here? and many other up voted questions.

I'm a doctor, not an information analyst, so a medical metaphor is perfect for me, and I'm going to carry it through.

A patient comes to a physician with "complaints"; this is not jargon or judgmental, it's a historical label for the presentation of a patient. "I'm short of breath", "I have a rash", I've had a runny nose and a sore throat for a week" are typical chief complaints (CC). The next step is to gather information about the CC; that's called the history of the present illness (HPI). But those are only two categories of information. If we didn't look at the rest of the patient (everything that's working well - called a review of systems (ROS) - and do a physical exam, we wouldn't have a very informed opinion of that patient's actual state of health.

If you list only "complaints" to characterize the entire site, of course you'll come to a very different conclusion than if you actually examine the entire site. Looking at the bigger picture, things have slowed down since the initial rush, but that's part of defining site expectations. What I've seen here is pretty normal compared with sites I've participated on actively on SE.

Which is not to say that we don't need to consider the complaints carefully. And I think we have been doing that, and will continue to. Still, we're in our infancy here.

If you want a clearer answer, you will need to present a clearer question. A list of problems usually doesn't lead to a helpful discussion.

  • ok thanks for your opinion
    – Attilio
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:21
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    "What I've seen here is pretty normal compared with sites I've participated on actively on SE." It would be interesting to compare based on some metrics (closures, deletions, votes, etc.). Jun 3, 2015 at 22:29

To paraphrase a song...it's not sick, but it's not well.

I don't necessarily think this is because we're mean to new users, or because the moderation team has gone mad with power. Rather, I think it's actually an inherent problem with the nature of this site: it's not a great place to answer questions. The reason for this, in my mind, is two-fold:

  • The desired answerer is somewhere between "Really good with Google and critical thinking" and "An expert in the field". That's a pretty narrow slice of the user base, even when you take into account that SE sites generally are drawing heavily from a non-biomed demographic.
  • There's a low payoff for being an answerer in the community sense. Sure, upvotes and reputation are nice and all, but the sites I interact with the most, I have at least some questions. In some ways, I answer a lot of questions on those sites as a way to paying back into the community that helps me. Honestly, I don't see myself asking questions on this site much, which somewhat reduces the motivation to answer as well.
  • This is fine as a personal reflection, however, to project your feeling into the analysis of why this site may fail is carrying that a bit far, I think. On the sites I'm most active on, I don't ask many questions (on one site, where I have 38K rep, I've asked 7 questions; on another, I've asked one, which you answered. :) However, like you, I get something out of reading the answers to other questions, and that's what keeps me there and interested. Jul 3, 2015 at 16:28
  • Here, it will be other things I find satisfying (for example, learning something out of my field of expertise, like orexins. I have to agree, we have some obstacles to overcome, though, and need help in doing so. Jul 3, 2015 at 16:28
  • @anongoodnurse The answer is, of course, based on my personal experience of the site. And while yes, I also have extremely skewed question to answer ratios on many sites, I think it's telling that I've really never thought of asking a question here vs. finding the answer myself. YMMV of course.
    – Fomite
    Jul 3, 2015 at 19:35
  • I think that's true of many health practitioners. We search the literature. We do it for our patients (which we are paid to do) or we get a consult. It depends, I guess, on letting go and asking. Jul 3, 2015 at 21:35

I can't say, but please allow me to express one concern and share my initial experience with this SE site. I wrote potentially constructive comments which were deleted, citing the reason that comments should not contain answers. I would have been happy to copy & paste my comments into an answer, but by no means am I going to spend my time retyping that information when it was uncalled for to delete them in the first place. My first experience on this site was bad, and I am on 23 other SE sites, and I've never seen a moderator delete constructive comments.

  • 2
    Your comment ("...Filtered cigarettes are less harmful than unfiltered. Organic tobacco is less harmful. Low-tar is less harmful. It will reduce risk... if you try to make them think all cigarettes are made the same, they'll continue to choose the most harmful varieties..." contains unsupported claims, a very serious problem on a health site. It is the policy of this site to remove comments which contain answers because they are unsupported. Reason: unsupported answers on SciFi or EL&U will not harm anyone; on this site, they can cause harm. We want users to answer; it's not competition. Jun 18, 2015 at 19:36
  • 1
    Full comment minus two sentences so that you can answer: Filtered cigarettes are less harmful than unfiltered. Organic tobacco is less harmful. Low-tar is less harmful. It will reduce risk, but whether it'll be enough for that person to avoid disease or death, difficult to say, that is their risk to take, and a person should be educated, not scared into doing what's best--for some choosing a less dangerous product is on their path to quitting, whereas if you try to make them think all cigarettes are made the same, they'll continue to choose the most harmful varieties. Jun 18, 2015 at 19:56
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    Thank you for the explanation and for the copy. I fully understand, now. In the future, I should back up my claims with evidence, studies, journals, etc., yes? And that probably would require more effort, time, and space, definitely indicating an answer, not a comment. Thanks for your patience. Sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion, and for helping me to understand rather than simply down-voting my concern. The nature of this site is very different from all the rest, maybe the requirements need to be more explicitly spelled out somewhere that can't be missed, if possible?
    – Shon
    Jun 18, 2015 at 20:11
  • 1
    Not a problem. Glad we're on the same page! There is a meta post about this (I had the same question): Answers in comments Jun 18, 2015 at 20:16
  • I would like to add though, the deleted comments weren't intended to be an answer, rather clearly a response to a previous comment. It was in no way intended to be a thoughtful, deliberate archival answer. A comment on a comment or question, whether perceived to contain an answer, may need to be treated differently by moderators and recognized as something other than a vetted, supported official answer. Do you think there is a difference and should they be governed by different guidelines? If I meant it to be an answer, that's where I would have input it.
    – Shon
    Jun 19, 2015 at 17:03
  • 1
    Interesting distinction! I think that has the makings of a good meta question. Jun 19, 2015 at 19:31
  • @anongoodnurse I think it's extremely impolite to delete a comment or an answer without any warning. Jun 19, 2015 at 19:48
  • 1
    @FranckDernoncourt - That's a bit extreme. Comments aren't answers. They are, on every SE site, treated as ephemeral. Also, your comment is a non sequitur. Jun 19, 2015 at 19:54
  • @anongoodnurse In my experience, the percentage of deleted comments vary greatly from SE to SE. E.g. on stats you have to be very off-topic to have your comment deleted. My comment was a general statement. Jun 19, 2015 at 19:58
  • @FranckDernoncourt - It is a non sequitur. What is your relevant point? You say deleting comments (without yet another comment) is rude, yet you flag often for comment deletion including for comments as answers. The inconsistency baffles me. Also, how other sites handle comments is not a model for how we do so. We follow SE guidelines generally, decide the particulars site to site. Jun 19, 2015 at 22:29
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    @anongoodnurse My point is that I think it's extremely impolite to delete a comment or an answer without any warning. Flagging is not inconsistent, see When a user has one of his question or answer deleted, why don't you notify him about the deletion, and send the removed content by email?. I have flagged fewer than 10 comments to try to understand what the actual mod policy was, as it was unclear to me (and still is). Jun 19, 2015 at 22:34
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    @FranckDernoncourt - Again, you baffle me. I am referring to comments. What does your link contribute (it's about questions and answers) to this discussion? A comment is not an answer, and there is no need to treat them equally. Personally, I always leave comments when I close questions. Also, I usually do so for answers. But this isn't about questions or answers. Jun 19, 2015 at 22:38
  • @anongoodnurse The link was simply meant to show that if SE was more respectful toward user-content, they would make deleted content available to the user. Hence the issue is not flagging, but SE policy. Jun 19, 2015 at 22:45

I'm new here, but i already don't feel like staying here.

How often should I use mouthwash?

I answered with a reliable source to this question and i got -2 votes without a reason or a comment or anything like that. Why would i keep answering anything here? Especially on the beginning of the site we must be positive and inclusive and not have this kind of attitude. The less people here, the less will come.

The OP asked " "How often should I use mouthwash, and are there any consequences to doing it everyday?"

I answered backup-ed with studies that is ok to use it once to two times a day, without negative effects on health, unless you are treating gingivitis or other disease it's ok to use 3 times a day FOR LIMITED PERIOD OF TIME(usually dentists recommend 1 to 2 weeks)

And i got down voted apparently because i didn't answer if is actually a necessity/recommendation to use mouthwash everyday, sorry but i'm not a paranormal person and i don't have a crystal ball

  • 2
    You can even earn a badge for down-voting, so it doesn't just happen, it doesn't just make you cringe, but critical thinking is also encouraged. Sometimes you have to be patient. Often in time others will up-vote to counterbalance and eventually you end up with a positive count. But I agree, I suspect some are too critical and eager to judge because they don't like the answer or your style of writing even, regardless of the value, quality, helpfulness, and accuracy of your answer. Some people are just no darn good.
    – Shon
    Jun 19, 2015 at 17:09
  • 1
    I'm really sorry that this happened to you, I definitely agree with you.
    – Attilio
    Jun 20, 2015 at 10:42

An important point you may not be aware of: if these actions (which angered or drove away some users) had not been taken, other users would have been angered or driven away. So if you are envisioning an utopic "stop this and everybody will be happy" world: this cannot happen.

Health is an important part of human culture, and there are many approaches to how to handle it, and different people have a different vision of what kind of health content, and discussion of health topics, is "good". What is my great health advice is somebody else's dangerous misinformation.

This is a deep social phenomenon, not something which Stack Exchange can cure. The site will have to function within a society with deeply heterogenous needs, desires and expectations of a health resource, which automatically means that a large proportion of users will be severely disappointed.

The current approach is: we agree on a culture of what content is considered appropriate for the site, and start removing any content which is not. Every time a new user comes whose ideas of appropriate content differ, this user will feel put off and leave. This is how sites on the Stack Exchange network have always handled it. The leavings are much more numerous than on other sites, because of the abovementioned heterogeneity of beliefs, and your list of disgruntled users illustrates this nicely.

Seeing this process in action is not a sign that there is something wrong with the site. It is possible that the site fails for some reason yet. Maybe we won't be able to build a stable core community. Maybe we will be full of people asking and will find no experts prepared to answer with the kind of answers the community values. Or something else will happen. But if we fail, it will be despite of the current (and unavoidable) culture-building process, not because of it.

If somebody can come up with a different process of consolidating the user community, I'd be very interested in hearing it. But it can't be changed by a simple "don't close these questions/downvote these answers/delete these comments". If this is done, you will still see the exact same process taking place.


Yes. This site is diagnosed with "excess of negativity", a degenerative disease that leads to website death by low serum level of "active users". The cure urges to revert the negative attitude.

  • I actually laughed at this answer, but I'm afraid I'll have to down vote you because "you didn't provide references" and "what gives you the authority to do such diagnosis?" . Just kidding, thanks for the laugh. Sep 28, 2016 at 6:46

No, everything's fine. Users are running away perhaps because summer is coming and they go to the beach..

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