This Is The UK's Biggest Health Worry

Illustration: Anna Sudit
We LOVE to diagnose ourselves don’t we? One minute we’re sitting there with a snotty nose, then two minutes and a Google later and we’ve convinced ourselves we’re suffering from something as catastrophic as gangrene.
In fact, chronic health-Googlers have even got their own name - cyberchrondriacs. As in "hey, nice to meet you, I'm a chronic cyberchondriac and, according to the internet, I'm currently suffering from 13 different rare and undiagnosable conditions that can probably only be cured by turmeric".
Advertisement
But what symptoms are we Googling the most to come up with these outlandish diagnoses? Well, online pharmacy Pharmacy2U last week did a bit of research to find out. Turns out we're a nation obsessed with sleep and our bowels as the terms "insomnia" and "diarrhoea" were far and above the most Googled medical symptoms. 74,000 of us are searching for insomnia each month and 49,500 of us are searching for diarrhoea.
"Insomnia" was the top search term across nine out of ten of the biggest UK cities suggesting that it's not just in the capital that people are struggling to sleep. Interestingly, searches for insomnia peaked in March across the country. Perhaps its the change in clocks?
Leeds seemed to have nailed the insomnia thing - their top Google is "diarrhoea", followed by "sore throat" and then "headache", "chest pain" and "indigestion".
Other symptoms other people were Googling around the country were "cough", "nausea", "fatigue", "dizziness", "palpitations", "ear ache", "pins and needles", "stomach ache" and "upset stomach".
What's important to remember though if you are Googling your own symptoms, is that (duh) the internet is not a substitute for a medically trained doctor. A study from Harvard in 2015 found that of the 23 symptom checker websites they analysed, the right diagnosis was conjured up just 34% of the time. More worryingly, when it came to providing appropriate triage advice, these symptom checkers gave the correct advice just 58% of the time.
Advertisement
John Wilkinson, an editor of symptom checker site Mayo Clinic said at the time that these sites are designed to be a "starting point" and hope they are of use to allow patients to be "better equipped to have a conversation with their doctor or a nurse triage line or whatever the next step might be."
Searches for insomnia have been pretty steadily on the rise since 2008. 2008 also saw the release of the first iPhone - coincidence? Probably not. The only question is, are we Googling "insomnia" because our phones are keeping us awake or are we as sleepless as we always were it's just now, we've got phones from which to Google from, right next to our bed, when we can't sleep?
Either way - we would always recommend checking the NHS website when it comes to any medical queries. Not only is their medical information in line with NHS guidelines, you're far less likely to manage to convince yourself your foot's about to fall off from a rare Australasian disease that was eradicated 60 years ago.
Advertisement