Two in five have misdiagnosed themselves with serious disease after googling symptoms

NEW YORK — The internet provides us with unbridled access to information that would have been a distant fantasy just 50 years ago. Most of the time, having virtually unlimited access to any piece of knowledge one wants to pursue is undoubtedly a net positive and time saver. But, a new survey suggests that when it comes to medical matters, it’s probably a good idea to just visit a doctor. According to a poll of 2,000 Americans, more than two in five (43%) have convinced themselves they are suffering from a serious disease after googling their symptoms.

Diagnosing a disease and connecting the dots between specific symptoms is complicated, and often times looks can be deceiving. Taking a trip to the doctor’s office is rarely an especially fun experience, but it’s important to consult a trained medical professional if you believe something is up with your health. Medical and disease information websites may be helpful to a certain extent, but there’s a reason why medical school isn’t a six month program. One’s health isn’t something that should be looked at as a DIY project.

In fact, despite the fact that 65% of respondents say they’ve used Google to self-diagnose themselves, the majority admitted that this practice ultimately yielded more harm than good. In all, 74% of that group reported worrying even more after turning to “Dr. Google.”

If you’re still not convinced that turning to the internet for medical advice is a bad idea, consider this: the medical advice and information found online by respondents actually turned out to be accurate less than 40% of the time.

The survey, commissioned by LetsGetChecked, did at least find that not everyone immediately turns to the internet for medical help; 51% of respondents still consult a doctor as their first course of action.

Unfortunately, it seems many Americans (26%) don’t even have a primary care physician, and another six in 10 admit that they actively avoid doctors’ offices. When this group was asked why they prefer not to visit a doctor, the high cost of care was the most common response (47%), followed by a belief that doctors will not believe what they say about their symptoms (37%), and simply not having time (37%).

As far as what would motivate Americans to visit their local physician, nearly half of respondents (47%) say they would be more open to seeing a doctor if they knew their results would be explained to them in a clear manner. More affordable health care (46%) would also be a big motivator, as well as if a trip to the doctor’s was more convenient from a scheduling perspective (43%). The top five responses to this question were rounded out by the ability to choose which health categories are tested (41%), and being treated or tested from the comfort of home (38%).

“The fact that over half of U.S. adults turn to Google to learn more about their symptoms is unsettling. The fact that it can take weeks or months to see a doctor highlights the need for better solutions to testing, managing and knowing your health,” comments Robert Mordkin, Medical Director of LetsGetChecked, in a statement.

The survey also quizzed respondents on their knowledge of the human body using a few multiple choice questions. Before taking the short quiz, 68% of respondents reported that they believe themselves to be knowledgeable about the human body, but quiz results told a slightly different story. For example, only 45% were able to successfully answer where the thyroid is located (base of the neck). Another 22% incorrectly answered that the thyroid is a part of the respiratory system. In reality the thyroid is an integral part of the body’s endocrine system.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.