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.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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