Archive for the ‘cyberchondriac’ Tag

Are You a Cyberchondriac?

I’ve no idea – what’s one of those?

A cyberchondriac is an individual who possesses unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptoms, based on the review of search results and literature they find on the internet. Well I never!

It’s actually been around since the year 2000 yet very few people actually know what it is. However, that may be set to change as, just over a week ago, Microsoft published the results of a study of health-related web searches on popular search engines.

The study suggests that self-diagnosis by search engines frequently results in searchers drawing the worst case scenario about the cause of their symptoms.

In the report performed by researchers Ryen White and Eric Horvitz, it was found that web searches for things like headaches and chest pain returned just as many, if not more, results describing serious conditions as it did minor ones, even though the more serious illnesses are less common.

For example, there were just as many results that linked headaches with brain tumours as with caffeine withdrawal, despite brain tumours being extremely rare. The researchers said that web surfers’ propensity to jump to the wrong conclusion was basic human behaviour and had been noted by scientists decades ago.

The good news is, these kinds of results will actually help the web to evolve, with web techies determined to make future searches more reliable, returning advice-based information as opposed to the mere worst case scenario.

In other words, whilst it’s reassuring to have access to so much information via the web, leave the diagnosis to the professionals – we weren’t born with a medical degree!

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