We’re all guilty of typing “eye twitch: what does it mean” or “are heart palpitations dangerous” into Google – but trying to diagnose our own health issues is doing us more harm than good says new research.
New research from medical software and information provider, MedicalDirector has found that more than a third of Australians (38%) have become convinced they have a life-threatening or terminal illness after Googling their symptoms.
The research also found that:
More than half of us (54%) using Google at least weekly to look up medical questions and symptoms.
Almost 3 in 4 (72%) say they have at least once used the search engine to address their health needs instead of visiting a doctor
More than 40% of respondents use Google as their only source of information at least half of the time, when searching for medical information.
“The convenience of looking up health information on Google can easily turn from a habit to a full-blown addiction. I’ve seen many patients who need an actual intervention from family and friends to stop them doing it,” says Dr Charlotte Middleton, GP and Chief Clinical Advisor at MedicalDirector.
Her advice is not to stop searching online altogether but instead:
> Know the right places to look for quality health information
> Tell your doctor you have been searching Google so you can discuss it together
>Seek your doctor’s advice as well as doing your own research
“There is a wealth of good quality, evidence-based information online, but it’s a matter of knowing about where to look.” says Dr Charlotte Middleton.
“I strongly encourage patients to seek doctors’ advice first. Google can be a way for Australians to improve their health knowledge overall, and a good adjunct to a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment – however, it becomes a problem when it is used instead of seeking our help.”