Prevent Disease | May 6, 2012
As more people become distrustful of pharmaceuticals and conventional medicine, many are going online to self-diagnose rather than waiting for a doctor’s appointment. More than 78% of men and women seeking health advice from the internet can properly diagnose their condition in less than 8 minutes.
According to Andrew Liu, head researcher for the Online Diagnosis Project, “the internet is now the primary point of inquiry for adults and even teenagers with health concerns, and the accuracy of self-diagnosing online is quite surprising,” said Liu.
The most common inquiry is searching for symptoms and seeking natural therapies for those symptoms. Liu says this is the most impressive part of his research. “What is most remarkable is that people are not self-medicating with black market drugs, but they are seeking alternative therapies, treatment, supplementation, herbs, and natural remedies to cure or ease their condition,” he added.
Liu surveyed more than 28,000 teens and adults through direct questionnaire and found positive and accurate consistencies in diagnoses in approximately 78% of respondents. All of those respondents averaged just under 8 minutes in finding their exact symptoms and condition from a variety of websites and internet searches.
Less than 20% were found to misdiagnose or misrepresent their condition when they approached their physician. Almost all respondents had the symptoms and associated condition they found online to be confirmed later by their physician. A large percentage, 68% of respondents did not accept medication for their condition from their physician and instead opted for natural therapies.
Natural therapies is where the largest inconsistencies persisted according to Liu. “Most respondents could not consistently conform to any one type of treatment for the same condition,” he stated. Those discrepancies may be tied to the wealth of natural therapies available for so many different conditions. Liu emphasized that due to the nature and diversity of holistic approaches to treatment, the inconsistencies were not suprising.
The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions were cancer (except skin cancer) and hypothyroidism. While the most accurate diagnoses were musculoskeletal and skin conditions (including skin cancer). Other very accurately diagnosed diseases included diabetes, autism spectrum disorder, asthma, bronchitis, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, influenza, pneumonia, kidney disease, alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, sprains, and strains.
The most common symptoms likely to cause online seekers of diagnoses were migraines, sleeping disorders, depression and anxiety.
More than two-thirds of those surveyed stated they were not in a position or comfortable talking to friends or family about their condition, and almost one-third of respondents were also not comfortable talking to their spouse.
More than half of respondents said they no longer confide in conventional medical advice, pharmaceuticals or mainstream treatments when there are equally effective natural treatments with less side effects. These opinons stemmed from self education and the growing demographic of informed health savvy internet users.
“It’s important that we listen to our bodies and although we must be cautious about the information we encounter online, we usually know ourselves better than anybody else, including physicians,” concluded Liu.
This article was written by John Summerly.
John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.