Study Says Googling Mysterious Symptoms May Be Helpful

If you suddenly start feeling off, what’s the first thing you do? Check with Dr. Google, right? Lots of us turn to Internet searches to see if we can figure out what’s causing our headache, sore throat or back pain, but nurses and doctors typically advise against Googling symptoms, concerned we’ll start doomscrolling and end up with anxiety or “cyberchondria.” But anew studyreveals that doing our own online researchmay actually be a goodidea.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy asked 5-thousand people to read a case study that includes various symptoms and then give a diagnosis. After searching for symptoms online, they were asked to give another, more informed diagnosis. And it turns out, people are more likely to accurately diagnose a sickness after doing an Internet search.

Plus, participants in the study didn’t report an increase in anxiety after searching for symptoms and even more helpful? They were able to determine if the sick person could wait for a doctor’s appointment or needed to call 911. “Our work suggests that it is likely okay to tell our patients to 'Google it,’” explains study authorDr. David Levine. “This starts to form the evidence base that there's not a lot of harm in that, and, in fact, there may be some good.”


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