Eichenberg & Schott (2019): Use of Web-Based Health Services in Individuals With and Without Symptoms of Hypochondria: Survey Study


Back­ground: An increa­sing num­ber of people con­sult phy­si­ci­ans because of dis­t­res­sing infor­ma­tion found online. Cyber­chon­dria refers to the pheno­me­non of health anxiety because of online health infor­ma­tion.

Objec­tive: This study aimed to examine online health rese­arch of indi­vi­du­als with and without sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria and their impact on health anxiety as well as beha­vior.

Methods: An online sur­vey was con­duc­ted. Demo­gra­phic data, health-related inter­net use, and gene­ral health beha­vior were asses­sed. The ill­ness atti­tude scale was used to record sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria.

Results: The final sam­ple con­sis­ted of N=471 par­ti­ci­pants. More than 40% (188/471) of par­ti­ci­pants showed at least some sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria. Par­ti­ci­pants with sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria used the inter­net more fre­quently for health-related pur­po­ses and also fre­quen­ted more online ser­vices than indi­vi­du­als without sym­ptoms. Most online health ser­vices were rated as more relia­ble by indi­vi­du­als with sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria. Chan­ges to beha­vior such as doc­tor hop­ping or orde­ring non­pre­scri­bed medi­cine online were con­side­red more likely by indi­vi­du­als with sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria.

Con­clu­si­ons: Results show that indi­vi­du­als with sym­ptoms of hypo­chon­dria do not turn to online rese­arch as a result of lacking alter­na­ti­ves but rather con­sult health ser­vices on- as well as off­line.

Eichen­berg, C., & Schott, M. (2019). Use of Web-Based Health Ser­vices in Indi­vi­du­als With and Without Sym­ptoms of Hypo­chon­dria: Sur­vey Study. Jour­nal of Medi­cal Inter­net Rese­arch, 21(6): e10980. DOI: 10.2196/10980.