Tips for Finding Health Information Online

Stop DR Google aims to convince YOU that Googling a health symptom is dangerous and to stop! BUT, we know it is impossible to make ALL OF YOU walk away from the keyboard. The least we can do is give you tips on how to find trustworthy health information online and make safe choices.


Tip 1. Research the website not just your symptom!
Look into the site you are reading, don’t just select the first website that Google suggests. Ensure the information was written by a reputable health organisation – read the ‘about us’ section to validate it is a trustworthy site. Charities and associations that are dedicated to a specific health condition are a good source of information, for example, or

Tip 2. Be specific with your choice of Google words
Googling specific health symptoms will be more likely to generate accurate results. Vague searches will often be a symptom for a terrible illness; for instance, a bad headache is a symptom of brain cancer. But the chance of having brain cancer is extremely low compared to other headache related conditions. Don’t wander around sites just because you are curious, only read articles specific to your symptoms only.

Tip 3. Consistency
Don’t just read one site, read a few that back up your findings. This will improve the accuracy, relevance and validation to your self-diagnosis. Look for facts and figures; steer clear of opinion pieces, exaggerations and hyperboles.isportacus-panic-buttonTip 4. Don’t Panic
Even if you follow the above steps and a terrible diagnosis shows up, do not panic! You must remember a rare disease is RARE and will always require a professional diagnosis for confirmation.

Screaming businessman looking at his laptop in office

Tip 5. Accept that your self-diagnosis can be wrong
Visit a doctor! Accept that he/she may tell you it isn’t a rare disease and Google was in fact, incorrect.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.


How is Google affecting our Heart?

Today is World Heart Day! Today is about educating society on how to be healthy in order to live longer; whether it is keeping fit, eating the right foods or timely sleep patterns.

However, with the rise of DR Google users – today is also a reminder to stress less. We are constantly connected to our mobiles, laptops or tablets. We are constantly on the move, whilst simultaneously connected to our work, our schooling or our family via mobile technologies. Every day stresses are on the rise with the consistent need to have a healthy work-life-friend-family balance. We urge ourselves to fit as much as we can into every day of our lives, without taking note on how it is affecting our health.

All these social pressures are contributing to the recent increase in DR Google users! People find excuses to not visit a real doctor (whether it is due to work, sport, family, education or friend commitments). Instead they visit DR Google.

Starcevic & Berle suggest people these days seek medical information online as it’s faster than making a doctors appointment and waiting in a doctor’s surgery. The accessibility of mobile technologies makes ‘googling’ symptoms easy, as individuals want real-time information (ABC). But what is this doing to your heart.

DR Google can often provide the worst-case scenarios to patients; giving these patients heightened levels of stress and anxiety. This is not good for your health, and certainly not good for your heart.

Celebrate World Heart Day today by telling a friend to not Google his/her health symptoms. You may save their heart.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.


ABC News 2011, ABC News, accessed 25 August 2015, <>

Starcevic, V., & Berle, D. (2013). Cyberchondria: towards a better understanding of excessive health-related Internet use.

Real-Life Cyberchondria Stories

This week, we spoke to some of our readers about their DR Google experiences. Here are some of their stories

Female, 22

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I wanted to find out what was wrong without going to a doctor and to see what other people with similar symptoms were experiencing.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Small lump near breast

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. The most common response was breast cancer

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Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes! I was quite worried, so I went to my GP and a breast specialist. Turns out it was a hormonal muscle gland.

Female, 22

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I was curious to what Google would say.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Wisdom teeth symptoms

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. Google said I was having a really bad ear infection.

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes, Google was correct about the ear infection however the suggested treatment was incorrect.

Female, 30

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I was in pain late at night and needed answers!

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Pain in left arm

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. Google’s first diagnosis was a heart attack. As I read over the symptoms, I became extremely anxious and stressed. I also became short of breath, which was another symptom of a heart attack.

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes, I called a health hotline and they spoke with me about all my symptoms. They couldn’t explain the pain in my left arm without physically seeing me, but did say I was experiencing a panic attack and I shouldn’t Google my health symptoms.


Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

10 Signs You’re a Cyberchondriac

Isn’t it great having Dr Google everywhere you go at your fingertips? BUT it’s all fun and games until WedMD says you have a rare disease and you have 12 months to live!

Here are 10 Signs that mean You’re a Cyberchondriac:

1. Every time you feel a slight tingle, ache or pain – you Google what it means to relieve anxiety

2. You read at least 3 different sites on the first search page of Google – one source is never enough!


3. Instead of becoming less stressed, you become anxious and worried because you’re focusing on the worse case scenario

4. You then check online forums for reassurance and further clarification – at this point, you’ve definitely diagnosed yourself and are thinking the worse


5. Rather than just ‘Googling’ the symptom, you start ‘Googling’ the disease you believe you have. And ALL of the symptoms and causes seem to relate to you

6. You’re convinced you have an extremely rare disease! You’re tingle, ache or pain all of a sudden is so much worse

Internet pharmacy
Internet pharmacy

7. You send the website links to your partner or best friend to inform them you have an incurable rare disease

8. The more you read, the more worried you are


9. You distract yourself from the real reason you opened up the Internet browser

10. You believe Google, more than your professional GP. When you visit your doctor, you try to educate him on what you read on Google.


Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

The Tale of a Cyberchondriac

This is the story of Lorraine Edmiston. A 21-year-old cyberchondriac who believed she was experiencing the symptoms and causes of various serious diseases for months.

Lorraine was experiencing stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, reflux and excessive burping for weeks. With a full-time job and university, she struggled to find time to visit her doctor. Instead, she turned to DR Google for help and advice.

She decided to Google ‘abdominal bloating’ and found 48 possible diseases related to her symptoms on She spent hours reading up on each disease, looked at various websites and sources to narrow down the possible options.

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At the top of the list was indigestion and lactose intolerance – conditions suffered by Lorraine’s mum. Lorraine wasn’t too worried at first, until H. Pylori infection was another suggestion. H. Pylori causes stomach ulcers, another health issue experienced by her mum. At the stage, Lorraine became anxious and began questioning her mum of her experiences and symptoms to see if there were similarities. Many of the symptoms matched up causing stress amongst both Lorraine and her worried mum.

Another suggested cause was gluten intolerance – a condition suffered by Lorraine’s sister. From here, Lorraine chose to go on a gluten free diet to see if this would help. She altered her lifestyle and diet for 2 months. During this time, she didn’t notice her symptoms improving and continued to use DR Google, rather than visit her GP.

During this time, Lorraine discovered one of her friends recently experienced similar health symptoms. Her friend had a hiatal hernia; a condition in which part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm muscle causing pain in the abdomen and chest, belching, heartburn, reflux and nausea. Lorraine read up about hiatal hernias on Google and came to the conclusion that she had it!

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At this point, she finally decided to visit her doctor. Her doctor was convinced she was showing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), however Lorraine was not convinced due to her Google searches. She had convinced herself that it was a more serious issue and demanded tests to be performed. Lorraine underwent X-rays, ultrasounds, a colonoscopy and endoscopy – only to be told her doctor’s initial diagnosis was correct and was suffering from IBS.

Lorraine’s story proves the importance of visiting a doctor when health symptoms arise. She could have prevented stress, panic and changing her diet for 2 months if she didn’t Google her symptoms. Instead of trusting her doctor’s diagnosis, she chose to trust Google – she could have easily avoided hefty medical bills, undergoing anesthetics and spending unnecessary time in waiting rooms.

‘Don’t let the web, get to your head’

Stop Dr Google.

The Facts about Cyberchondria in Australia

In recent years, Australians have been ‘googling’ their health issues/symptoms, rather than visiting a general practitioner immediately. This prevalent social problem has led to Australians becoming ‘cyberchondriacs’ due to misdiagnosing themselves via information found on Google.

Cyberchondria is a healthcare issue. Simon Usborne describes it as individuals who “present their symptoms to “Dr Google”, and latch on to the worst “diagnosis” thrown back at them”. This leads to individuals experiencing heightened levels of anxiety due to misdiagnosis.

How many Australians are self diagnosing online?

According to a survey taken by Bupa, Almost half of Australian self-diagnose online; Australians aged 18-34 are most likely to seek medical information online; with 46% of females most likely to diagnose themselves online versus 39% of males.

Are Australians making sure they take advice from reputable sources?

NO. 57% of Australians do not check the source of health information found online. This is a dangerous statistic – Australians are taking medical advice from non-credible and non-professional sites posing to be within the medical industry or possess


Why are Australians ‘Googling’ their health symptoms?

  1. In Google, we trust

We are accustomed to having a vast array of information at our fingertips at all times of the day. Constantly connected to our iPhones, tablets and laptops – our first instinct is to ‘google it’ every time an issue arises.

  1. But I don’t have time…

Australians believe they are time poor due to a constant need for a healthy work/life balance. They seek medical information online as it’s faster than making a doctors appointment and waiting in a doctor’s surgery – plus, mobile technologies give us answers immediately!

  1. It’s a bit embarrassing

Google removes any embarrassment of seeking medical advice from a physician. It also allows users to be anonymous via online forums while talking to others with similar health issues. The anonymous factor of Google enables the ‘patient’ to feel at ease and comfortable with DR Google.

But beware…’Don’t let the web get to your head!’

Stop Dr Google.

Infographic Source:

Don’t Google It

In 2014, the Belgian medical site Gezondheid en Wetenschap launched the ‘Don’t Google It’ campaign to tackle the recent shift in googling health symptoms. Advertising agency DDB Brussels cleverly created an advertising campaign targeting the right people, at the right time. They bought Google AdWords for the top 100 searched health symptoms. Now, when people google these symptoms, the top result reads, “Don’t Google it, check a reliable source,” and clicks through to

Watch the ad now:

Client: Gezondheid en Wetenschap
Campaign: “Don’t Google It”
Clients: Marleen Finoulst, Elizabeth Bosselaers, Patrick Vankrunkelsven
Agency: DDB Brussels
Creative Director: Peter Ampe
Creative Team: Tim Arts, Stefan van den Boogaard
Head of Digital: Geert Desager
Strategic Planner: Maarten Van Daele
Senior Account Manager: Silvie Erzeel
Television Producer: Brigitte Verduyckt
Digital Producers: Stefanie Warreyn, Maarten Breda
Web Developer: Christophe Gesquière
Design: Andreea Buescu, Cedric Lopez
Content Planner: Michael D’hooge
Production Company: Lovo
Director: Norman Bates
Producers: Bert Brulez, François Chandelle

Don’t google it from Gezondheid en Wetenschap on Vimeo.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Self-Diagnose Online

Did you know almost half of the Australian population self-diagnose online? One third of Australians use the Internet to manage long-term health conditions. And, more than have of Australians are not checking the Internet source of health information. This is leading to more and more Australians misdiagnosing themselves with Dr Google.

Why you shouldn’t self-diagnose:

  1. Google doesn’t know who you are – Dr Google cant see the cut on your finger…or measure your body temperature…or check your ears if you have an infection.

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  1. Google is not a physician and you are not a health expert…leave it to the professionals.

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  1. You cant trust every website – you don’t know if the writer is actually a doctor.

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  1. Cyberchondria gets worse the more times you Google.

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  1. You will convince yourself that you have a deadly disease.

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All images created by Stop Dr Google