One in four women use Google to diagnose health issues

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Picture the scene: you have a female health irregularity and are both concerned and embarrassed to talk about it. Do you a) pluck up the courage to share your concerns with a medical professional or confide in someone or b) bask in the anonymity of the online world and simply type in your symptoms and wait for a solution to pop up courtesy of a quick Google search. One in four of us would opt for option b).

New research reveals one in four women have misdiagnosed themselves online, then bought the wrong products to try and relieve their symptoms. Searching their symptoms online and self-medicating can come with some pretty unpleasant side effects as a result of misdiagnosing – this affected a tenth of the 1,000 women surveyed.

Worries about what could be wrong commonly drive women to look for help online. We may also feel uncomfortable talking about health issues with friends or family, another reason why our first port of call may be to check online.

The study found symptoms including having problems sleeping, headaches, depression, muscle pain, itching and fatigue were most likely to prompt women to diagnose themselves. While most women spent a few days worrying over symptoms before speaking to anyone and a third waited at least two weeks; fear that something may be seriously wrong prevented one in 20 women from getting checked out by a GP for a number of years.

If going to your family GP or confiding in someone really is an issue, please tread very carefully when searching online for information. The Health Counter, the sponsors of Channel 4’s BAFTA award-winning Embarrassing Bodies, offers a personal and confidential online doctor service for those times when you would rather not go to your own GP. Made up of a panel of registered GPs, the online doctors service delivers remote medical consultations.

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