Cyberchondriasis: fact or fiction? A preliminary examination of the relationship between health anxiety and searching for health information on the Internet

J Anxiety Disord. 2012 Jan;26(1):189-96. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.11.005. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Abstract

This study examined the relationship between health anxiety and searching for health information online, a phenomenon dubbed 'cyberchondria'. The majority of those with 'high' (n=46) and 'low' (n=36) levels of health anxiety reported seeking health information online. However, those with higher levels of health anxiety sought online health information more frequently, spent longer searching, and found searching more distressing and anxiety provoking. Furthermore, more responses in the high than low health anxiety group related to searching for information on diagnosed and undiagnosed medical conditions, descriptions of others' experiences of illnesses and using message boards/support groups, although the largest proportion of responses in both groups was accounted for by seeking information on symptoms. Linear regression (n=167) revealed significant relationships between health anxiety and the frequency, duration and distress and anxiety associated with searching for health information online. This preliminary data suggests that searching for health information online may exacerbate health anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Hypochondriasis / psychology*
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires