Research shows that about 80% of American adults use the Internet to seek out medical information. And chances are that if you’ve ever looked up your symptoms online, at least one possibility suggested a terminal disease — even if it just turned out to be a cold or allergy.
Most likely, you shrugged off that worst-case scenario as unlikely. But for hypochondriacs — those who are already worried about their health, and prone to thinking the worst — online medical “advice” can only make things worse, according to a Baylor University researcher.
Dr. Thomas Fergus’ study was recently published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, and his results have been picked up by news outlets such as the New York Daily News, Yahoo!, MSN and the Huffington Post. An assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, Fergus says that doubts about health — fueled by inaccurate Internet diagnoses — can trigger additional fears about the future, as potential medical bills, disability and job loss could snowball into even worse financial and personal situations.
Sic ’em, Baylor researchers!