Italian doctors complain that the prevalence of medical information on the Internet has led a large number of people to come down with imaginary illnesses, some of which they attempt to treat themselves prior to arriving at the doctor's office. B
An estimated 12 million Italians say they are affected by a heart attack, tumors, diabetes or tuberculosis. But almost all of these so-called illness are imaginary, or, more specifically, diagnosed by the Web. The word "health" is among the most searched online, but less known is the ailment of having too much medical information available at the click of a mouse.
The figure of 12 million comes from a survey of 900 family physicians across Italy, one which reveals alarming data. Of 1 million patients concerned (scaled up to 12 million when projected to reflect the entire population), 35% arrive at the doctor's office already with a self-diagnosis in hand and 20% percent detail symptoms they have tried to cure using online health sites.
Online sites seem to be putting doctors on the defensive, with 22% lamenting their patients' Web-dependence. Topping the list of imaginary diseases, says Giampiero Pirro, one of the physicians who conduted the survey, are "cardio-vascular disorders such as suspected stroke or heart attack, followed by cancer, diabetes, mental disorders, and, after recent news reports, tuberculosis."
A barrage of health information is helping to form a nation of hypochondriacs, as evidenced by a recent Ipsos survey revealing that 54% of Italians visit the doctor more than 10 times per year.
Though stretched by Web-dependent patients, doctors, nevertheleses, may rely on the Internet themselves. The same survey of 900 doctors found that 76% of physicians use sites specifically aimed at health-care professionals in the course of their work. And 33% may consult the web during the course of a patient's visit.
Read more from La Stampa in Italian
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