Almost a third of adults in the UK use Google to self-diagnose health symptoms, a survey suggests.
The poll of 1,000 Brits show that individuals worry about their health 1.6 times a week on average.
Thirty per cent of adults use Google to self-diagnose to avoid putting pressure on the healthcare system, while 26% find it too difficult to get an appointment.
More than half (59%) Googling their symptoms make sure it is a credible source while 9% just click on the first link that appears.
Almost half (45%) of 16-24 year olds buy medicine based on their self-diagnose, followed by 32% of 35-44 year olds.
Nearly 30% of respondents said that Googling their symptoms make them feel more anxious with a further 22% saying that it has a negative impact on their mental health.
Forty seven per cent of people said that they use Google to determine whether they need to visit the doctor or not.
Online self-diagnosis – the pros and cons
Why is it bad?
Unfortunately, self-diagnosing on the internet can sometimes cause more harm than good.
- UNRELIABLE SITES: Unreliable websites, giving incomplete information, poor algorithms and thus wrong conclusions and wrong directions. The websites used must be evidenced-based and good quality. It can be difficult for the general public to understand which websites are of a good quality.
- TOO MEDICAL: Websites written for doctors/medical personnel have the basic assumption of training and experience and are only useful for the trained, otherwise may cause more confusion and fear in the non-medically trained.
Why is it good?
- TRIAGE: Helps patients to decide whether to self manage, speak to a doctor or come to a clinic-based on information and questions answered with health information online. It is worth bearing in mind that while symptom checkers may be useful as an adjunct to triage, they are not recommended as a substitute for triage.
- INFORMATION: Evidence-based, quality, peer-reviewed and reliable sources of information cam help to give information to patients for self-care and guidance. Can be read in their own time and not given in a tight/rushed consultation.
Advice for those who Google health symptoms
1. Only use recognised and reliable websites such as NHS/Cancer Research/NICE/BNF
2. Make sure information is not outdated or irrelevant geographically
3. Ensure a medical professional is consulted as a result – whether a pharmacist for minor symptoms or a nurse or doctor for persisting and serious symptoms