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Dr Google: Online Diagnosis Hotspots

We’ve all done it. With information so readily available on the internet, the temptation to self-diagnose on Google is ever-growing. In a post-pandemic world, when medical anxiety is at an all-time high and doctor’s appointments are sometimes hard to get, it’s easy to understand why consulting ‘Dr Google’ is an increasing trend.

At Compare the Market, we care about consumers’ health so sought out information on where they find reliable information. To gain some insight into self-diagnoses, we asked Dr Luke Pratsides MBBS MSc MRCGP MFCI, Lead GP at Numan, what the most Googled health symptoms are. In his experience, he’s found that the most-reported symptoms include:

  • Nausea/ vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Migraine
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Chest pain
  • Indigestion
  • Hay fever
  • Back pain
  • Rash
  • Stress
  • Heart palpitations.

With this information in mind, we wanted to see which countries are guilty of Googling the most, and which symptoms are the most commonly searched in each country. We determined the monthly search volume through Google Search data – here are the results!

Migraine

Our results show us that the USA is Googling migraine-related health queries more than any other country we analysed. In fact, with an average search volume of 93.53 for each month in 2021, Americans are Googling migraines more than other countries are searching for any other symptom.

The UK and Switzerland are also worried about migraines a lot, with 87.67 and 68.15 average volume of Google searches respectively in the past year. That’s a lot of migraines!

Constipation

Constipation is another highly Googled symptom. A somewhat embarrassing topic, it’s easy to understand why a quick Google search might be more appealing than a face-to-face appointment.

Our data shows that Canadians are googling this symptom the most, with an average search volume of 88.40384615 in the past year! Ireland follows closely behind at 80.09 searches, with France bringing up the rear (no pun intended) with 85.5 searches per month.

Stress

With 17 countries out of the 43 searching for stress-related queries the most often, this is the most searched-for symptom overall.

The Netherlands seems to be the most stressed country by far, Googling stress-related terms with an average search volume of 87.01 in 2021. Belgium follows with 80.55769231 searches, Sweden with 80.23 and Denmark with 79.53.

Back Pain

Our data showed us that Australians’ most searched symptom in 2021 was back pain, with an average volume of 82.90 searches.

The UK and Canada are both searching a lot for bad back-related queries, too, with an average search volume of 86.90 and 85.13 in the past year, respectively.

Headache

Like migraines, headaches are another top searched symptom. In fact, Germany’s most searched symptom is headaches, with a total of 73.98 searches per month for cephalalgia-related symptoms.

Malta saw the second-highest volume of headache-related Googles with 47.96 searches for headaches, followed by Lithuania with 45.23 average search volume.

Fever

Our data shows that 15 of the countries we analysed searched for fever-related symptoms the most. At the top of this feverish list is Spain, with 73.90 searches, followed by Italy and the Czech Republic, with 68.73 and 66.42 searches respectively.

World map showing the most commonly Googled health symptoms in countries around the world.

With the amount of search volume there is for these ailments, it’s clear that self-diagnosing over Google is a common trend across many countries. Googling symptoms is quick and easy, often much faster than waiting for an appointment. So, what’s the harm?

Expert opinion suggests “There is a huge amount of health information available to people through internet search engines, forums and social media. Anyone can publish information on the internet. This means that it is difficult to know if the information you read online is reliable and written by someone with qualifications or deep knowledge in the health area. This could lead to risk of ignoring important symptoms that could have serious health consequences or becoming over-concerned about minor symptoms that will have no impact on one’s health.”

While Googling symptoms might be convenient, self-diagnosis can in fact be more hazardous to your health.

If you’re guilty of consulting Dr Google, our research shows you’re certainly not alone. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s clearly tempting to turn to it for health advice. However, unregulated articles should never take the place of a medical professional and can often cause more harm than good to both physical and mental health.

Methodology

We analysed Google Search data to determine which countries turn to Google to self-diagnose the most alongside the monthly search volume for health-related questions/queries.

In order to pinpoint the most common health symptoms, we’ve consulted Dr Luke Pratsides MBBS MSc MRCGP MFCI, Lead GP at Numan.

We then used Google Search data to find the average search volume for each symptom per country to determine which symptoms are most common per region.

All data correct as of 05-06/05/2022.

Brought to you by Compare the Market: Making it easier for Australians to search for great deals on Health Insurance.