More New Zealanders are using the internet to research their
medical woes - and some are using their findings to treat
themselves rather than visit a doctor.
TNS research for the Southern Cross Healthcare Group, showed
55 per cent of Kiwis used the internet to research their
ailments, and 22 per cent said they did so at least once a
The survey of about 2000 people, completed in September and
released this week, showed 22 per cent of those questioned
went on the internet to identify the issue themselves.
It also showed that 9 per cent of respondents would take
their findings to their GP but 7 per cent would diagnose
their problems on the internet and not seek any medical help
The head of the general practice department at Otago
University, Christchurch, Professor Les Toop, said
self-diagnosis was not new as people had previously gone to
libraries to look up their issues.
He said on-line diagnoses could be helpful, but he cautioned
against over-reliance on the internet.
"It is a completely unregulated environment ... some of the
information is good, some of it's not and some of it is
driven by advertising and sales."
He said he didn't have a problem with websites that offered
solutions for people with minor irritations.
"Where it would be [a problem] is where people are trying to
diagnose themselves for having haemorrhoids when they have
got bowel cancer."
Medical Association chairman Mark Peterson said
self-diagnoses on the internet were among the biggest Google
search categories, and were sometimes helpful in arming
patients with more information when they went to visit their
Southern Cross Healthcare Group chief executive Ian
McPherson, a former GP, said it was was not surprising people
were turning to the internet given the wealth of information
The national TNS survey showed those most likely to search
for health information online were people living in
Wellington and Tauranga, females and those under 50.
- James Ihaka of the New Zealand Herald