Dr. Google Does More Harm than Good for Self Diagnosis

The world is a different place than it once was. The simplest of wonders do not have to be pondered for long thanks to the internet. The most common response to any question starting with the phrase, “I wonder what…” is “Google it.” Nine times out of ten, the right answer will be found in minutes and the case is closed.

There are some issues that maybe we shouldn’t leave to the hands of Google though. New research says that those who turn to the internet for health self-diagnosis are doing themselves more harm than good. In a nutshell, the professionals are saying to avoid “Dr. Google.”

These findings were recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Simply put, the study found that those who self-diagnose are more likely to believe they are afflicted with a serious condition because they focus on their symptoms versus the broader picture – their actual likelihood of having a particular disease.

According to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the closer we are to the subject the more likely we are to inaccurately assessing the situation. When the subject is ourselves, we’re very close and at a high risk for under or overestimating our symptoms.

In contrast though, when the subject is not us, we tend to take a much more mild approach to the symptoms. A common example given to explain this research is that if another describes the classic symptoms of indigestion, we feel comfortable trusting that is their ailment. However, as individuals, we may experience the same symptoms and jump to conclusions, fearing we’re having a heart attack. We don’t seem to have the ability to monitor ourselves well enough to conclude that our risk for heart attack is low, and that indigestion is a more likely diagnosis.

While the world’s information is truly at our fingertips and much of it is extremely reliable, not all questions can be answered via Google. Brian Alexander is an NBC News Contributor who covered this topic in a recent TODAY publication. His closing remarks clearly state why one should still go seek professional medical advice.

“…findings, published this month in the Journal of Consumer Research, show that the advantage of seeing a real doctor isn’t just because he or she is an expert. It’s also that they aren’t you.”

Next time your chest burns, don’t call “Dr. Google,” call a real one, OK?

image via survivorpediatrics.com

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