With our smartphones always on hand, it sometimes feels as though a diagnosis is simply a Google search away.
But if you’ve ever googled ‘persistent headache’ or ‘niggling cough’ and been confronted with the possibility it may be a sign of a life-threatening illness, you’ll know why Dr Google isn’t always helpful.
Australians are spending more time online than ever before. In fact, the latest Medibank Better Health Index shows 18-49 year olds are spending an average of 26.5 hours a week online. And a 2014 Royal Australian College of General Practitioners survey, almost half (44%) of all internet users surveyed sought health information online at some time in the month before.
From symptom checkers, to the latest in treatment, it’s now instinct for many of us to turn to the internet for health information and self-help. But is it hurting or helping us?
The rise of cyberchondria
With a myriad of health advice now available at our fingertips, we’re seeing an emergence of a brand new phenomenom - cyberchondria.
Cyberchondria is a term coined to describe certain symptoms of hypochondria associated with the internet1, for example worrying about having a disease after reading about it on the internet, or searching for hours about diseases and symptoms.
With serious health conditions like cancer showing up in health information on a regular basis, it’s not surprising that the internet can trigger anxiety or worry about your health. It’s one of many good reasons a trusted health professional, like your GP, should be your first port of call.
READ MORE: Am I just worried? Or is it anxiety?