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WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Over one-third of U.S. adults (35 percent) say they have used the Internet to self-diagnose a serious medical condition.
A recent Pew Research Center survey finds that 46 percent of so-called “online diagnosers” sought the attention of a medical professional following their research online. But 38 percent just took care of the problem from home following their online research.
When asked about the accuracy of their initial self-diagnosis online, 41 percent of online diagnosers had their Internet suspicion confirmed by a medical professional, and 35 percent said they did not seek a professional opinion.
Eighteen percent of survey participants said a medical professional disagreed with their self-diagnosis.
The study finds that women are more likely than men to go online to figure out a possible diagnosis. Other groups that have a high likelihood of doing so include younger people, white adults, people living in households earning $75,000 or more, and those with a college degree or graduate degrees.
Most people — 82 percent — start searching using search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Thirteen percent went straight to a website that focuses on health information like WebMD, and only two percent used Wikipedia. One percent relied on Facebook and other social networks.
The results were collected from a nationwide telephone survey of 3,014 adults living in the U.S. over both landlines and cell phones. Interviews were conducted between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6, 2012.
Despite the prevalence of Internet self-diagnosers, a large majority of U.S. adults used medical professionals as their central resource for care during series health episodes. In most cases, online self-diagnosis performed in conjunction with friends, family or medical professionals.
Seventy percent of U.S. adults got their information, care, or support from a doctor or other health professional. Sixty percent of adults got information or support from friends or family, and 24 percent got information or support from other people who experienced the same health condition.
The study also found that there is a social life of health information, as well as peer-to-peer support, with people exchanging stories about their own health issues to inform each other understand what might lie ahead.