Enterprise Software

One symptom and a dose of paranoia fuels cyberchondriacs

CyberchondriacDo you search the Internet for solutions to almost every single problem you encounter? Before you become defensive or feel bad, let me confess that I do. From distinguishing flowers from weeds in my garden, to troubleshooting my pool vacuum, to diagnosing my aches and pains, Google is equivalent to Target... it's a one-stop-shop. And according to a recent poll, there are a lot of people who use the Internet to determine their medical health status. Take a look at this story from News.com: "Fixated on health sites? Join the cyberchondriacs."

Here are some stats from the nationwide telephone poll of 1,010 adults, conducted by Harris Interactive:

  • The number of so-called cyberchondriacs seeking health information on the Web has soared to about 160 million in 2006 — a 37 percent rise over two years
  • Cyberchondriacs now represent 84 percent of all online adults, up from last year's 80 percent, and 72 percent in 2005
  • Cyberchondriacs on average search the Internet almost six times per month for health information and the majority find what they are looking for
  • Eighty-six percent of the respondents said the health information they found online was reliable
  • Nearly 60 percent of people who found what they were looking for on the Internet discussed the information with their doctors at least once in the last year

I think that it's great that people are educating themselves and are able to communicate with their physicians about possible diagnoses and health concerns that they have. The flip side of the coin is that people can literally worry themselves sick with all of the information that's out there, just waiting for someone with a symptom or two and a good dose of paranoia. Are you a cyberchondriac, or do you leave your medical ailments for health professionals to diagnose?

About

Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.

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