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Dr. Google

Cyberchondria.

According to ChannelWeb:

Now you can convince yourself that you have more illnesses than you can shake a thermometer at, thanks to the Internet.

It’s good news for hypochondriacs, who can now add “cyberchondria” to their list of supposed ailments. Microsoft researchers coined the term after finding that thanks to a plethora of online medical information, more and more people think they are sick.

Microsoft researchers released their report on cyberchondria in November of 2008. Despite the report from ChannelWeb, Microsoft researchers did not coin the term cyberchondria. As this New York Times article highlights — without a source mind you:

… the term “cyberchondria”? emerged in 2000 to refer to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online

The BBC had published a news article on cyberchondria back in 2001. The concept of cyberchrondia has been around for a long time. I should know. I have been a proud cyberchrondriac for many years.

Microsoft researchers Ryen White and Eric Horvitz claim that the use of Web search as a diagnostic procedure where queries describing symptoms are input and the rank and information of results are interpreted as diagnostic conclusions can lead users to believe that common symptoms are likely the result of serious illnesses. And escalations from common symptoms to serious concerns may lead to unnecessary anxiety, investment of time, and long waiting lines to meet with a Canadian doctor. Assuming that you can find one somewhere.

As the concept has been around for some time and most people would admit to having used Dr. Google, why would Microsoft be researching cyberchondria now? Perhaps the answer is Microsoft HealthVault. Or the evolution of Web search guided by Microsoft research.

Whatever the driver, just say no to Dr. Google.