We’ve all done it – turned to the convenience of our cell phones to Google our latest symptoms in hopes of determining whether our sudden cough is deadly or simply a head cold. While WebMD introduced self-diagnosing years ago, this trend has taken off over the years as people began turning to social media to evaluate their symptoms. However, the rise of social media as a self-diagnosis tool is a concerning trend, with Tebra’s recent survey of 1,000 people shedding light on its significant impact.
Tebra’s Eye-Opening Findings
With the Internet at our fingertips, it’s not surprising that people want immediate answers when something seems out of the ordinary. While it can be beneficial to investigate online – it’s important to know when to turn to the professionals.
Tebra’s survey highlights the alarming effects of self-diagnosing via social media. According to their research:
- Misdiagnosis Rates: Unverified social media self-diagnoses have led to a 73 percent increase in misdiagnoses. This is particularly concerning given the complexity of medical conditions and the subtleties involved in accurate diagnosis, which require professional medical evaluation.
- Spread of Inaccurate Information: Social media’s role in disseminating inaccurate health information has increased by 70 percent. The lack of regulation and verification of health content on social media platforms means that misinformation can spread rapidly, often going viral and reaching a wide audience.
- Fear-Mongering: The reliance on social media for health information has also led to an increase in fear-mongering. Sensationalized or exaggerated content can cause unnecessary panic and anxiety among individuals who may believe they are suffering from serious health conditions based on unreliable sources.
The Implications of This Trend
The implications of these findings are multifaceted:
- Health Risks: Incorrect self-diagnosis can lead to delayed treatment, worsening of conditions, or inappropriate self-treatment, posing significant health risks.
- Mental Health Impact: The anxiety and fear stemming from inaccurate diagnoses can have profound effects on an individual’s mental health.
- Strain on Healthcare Systems: Misinformed individuals may make unnecessary visits to healthcare providers, adding strain to already burdened healthcare systems.
- Erosion of Trust in Professional Medical Advice: As people turn to social media for quick answers, there’s a risk of eroding trust in professional medical advice, which could have long-term implications for public health.
The Need for Caution and Education
This trend underscores the need for caution when using social media as a health resource and highlights the importance of professional medical advice. This especially rings true with the younger generations, with Gen Z and Millennials making up more than half of the respondents who admit to self-diagnosing.
Educating the public about the dangers of self-diagnosis through social media and promoting critical evaluation of online health information are crucial steps in addressing this issue.
Understanding the Limitations
Although social media provides easy access to information, increases awareness, and reduces stigma, its use for self-diagnosis poses serious risks. Tebra’s survey is a wake-up call to the dangers of this practice and the need for increased awareness and education. In matters of health, it is always advisable to seek professional guidance rather than relying on unverified online sources.