Nov 7, 2013

Are we a nation of Cyberchondriacs


Am I having a stroke? My self-diagnosis indicates that I must be as I have looked up my symptoms and they match what I have found on Google! However, a more objective analysis might lead somebody else, such as my doctor, to suggest that I actually just have a migraine.

Ten years ago, it was estimated that only about 15% of patients would look up information about their condition and their symptoms before visiting their GP. However, with the internet becoming increasingly accessible, and half of the UK population owning Smartphone's for easy access, it is no surprise that this number has changed dramatically. Recent research by Global Market Insight revealed that 90% of those surveyed had looked at online healthcare information before consulting their GP, with 19% saying they did so 'always' and 14% admitted they had bought prescription and non-prescription medication online.

So what stops us from making a trip to the GP thus potentially putting our health at risk? The reasons seem to vary greatly with gender.The Aviva Health of the Nation Index Report found that Men, on the whole, tend to play down their illness and don't want to "waste doctor's time." 30% of men claimed they rarely become ill compared to 21% of women. If the illness is seen to be embarrassing, this is also a preventing factor. See our case study for TENA For Men

For women, the most common reason was finding time to go to the doctors. 51% of women said they would suffer in silence if unwell as there were jobs to be done. And many would rather wait to see if symptoms disappeared before going to the doctors. GP availability is often limited, with most practices being closed at weekends or only being open for a couple of hours. But even when we do make appointments, a large number of those appointments are missed. The BBC recently reported that 40,000 outpatient hospital appointments are missed every year at Cornwall's main hospitals and a staggering 1,300 patients failed to turn up to scheduled operations. David Cameron has recently announced a 50 million scheme for surgeries to be open from 8am-8pm seven days a week. It will be interesting to see the impact this will have on the number of visits we make to the doctors.

There are, however, also benefits to having such easy access to information. The BBC has recently reported that women from more affluent areas were catching their breast tumours earlier than those from more deprived areas. Could this in part be down to having easier access to the internet to look up the common signs and symptoms?

Take the quick test to see if you might be a cyberchondriac!

Six signs you're a cyberchondriac:

  • You check health information websites to get relief from anxiety
  • You always focus on the worst case scenario
  • You 'symptom surf' for vague and generic symptoms
  • You bookmark and favourite medical searches
  • You search for medicines that you believe will treat your self-diagnosed illness
  • The time you spend checking health symptoms online is interfering with your life

Source: eircom news