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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 154-162

Cyberchondria: Implications of online behavior and health anxiety as determinants

Basic Medical Sciences, Saint James School of Medicine, Park Ridge, IL, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rana Zeine
Saint James School of Medicine, 1480 Renaissance Drive, Park Ridge, IL 60068
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/amhs.amhs_108_19

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Background: Cyberchondria is excessive worrying about one's health that develops following internet search for medical and health information. Aim: This study investigates how the development of cyberchondria relates to characteristics of the person searching the internet including their medical history, age, and health-related anxiety. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted between 2015 and 2016. The “Dr. Net” survey consisted of 32 questions based on previously published surveys probing the use of internet search for health-related information. Participants were recruited from the authors' own social network by receiving a hyperlink through social media platforms and e-mails. One hundred and ninety-one English-speaking individuals, majority from Canada and the USA, completed the “Dr. Net” questionnaire online and anonymously through SurveyMonkey®. Results: Females sought health-care advice earlier than males (**P = 0.005). Younger age groups exhibited higher frequencies of internet search, daily versus weekly, versus monthly versus yearly, with differences between the 21 and 30 versus >60 (***P = 0.000), 21–30 versus 51–60 (**P = 0.011), 21–30 versus 31–40 (**P = 0.019), 31–40 versus 51–60 (**P = 0.012), 41–50 versus 51–60 (**P = 0.021), and <20 versus >60 years' age groups (**P = 0.024). 30.7% reported developing cyberchondria. Indicators of cyberchondria correlated with older age (r = 0.154, P=**0.036), negative medical history (r = 0.191, **P = 0.013), health anxiety (r = 0.268, ***P = 0.000), and hypochondria (r = 0.142, P = 0.062). Less than four percent perceived their internet search as disadvantageous. Conclusion: Cyberchondria was reported by a third of those who conducted health-related internet searches, with higher frequencies in older, previously healthy individuals who had health anxiety.

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