In Brief

The UK's most searched illnesses


Depression, diabetes and scarlet fever amongst the illnesses that get people turning to Google 


The UK's most Googled conditions have been revealed in a new study carried out by an online medical service.

Dr Morton's – 'The Medical Helpline' – says fibromyalgia was 2015's top condition searched for by people before calling a GP. Symptoms include all-over body pain, severe tiredness and problems with sleep, with the long-term condition particularly common in women.

The NHS estimates that up to one in 20 UK residents have the condition, but it is difficult to diagnose which may explain why it tops the list with more than one million searches this year alone.

Closely following fibromyalgia are the common viruses chickenpox and shingles.

As awareness surrounding mental health continues to rise, searches for depression and anxiety also made it into the UK's top ten, with a combined total of more than 200,000 searches each month.

"A medical search on the internet imparts a sense of empowerment and worry in equal measure," said Dr Karen Morton.

Breaking down the results, it was found that "women's health" was the most searched category. This will come as little surprise to doctors as more than 70 per cent of patients who walk through the doors of GPs' surgeries are women.

Morton said that while the internet allows patients to explore their symptoms self-diagnosis can be counter-productive, leading to misdiagnosis, undue worry and increased strain on GP services.

2015 also saw the launch of Google's health feature that provides information about "common" medical conditions in response to related searches.

One in 20 Google searches are for health-related information," said Prem Ramaswami, announcing the launch of the feature in January.

British doctors praised the initiative but warned about the "stark differences" between the UK and the US's health practices.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee, told the BBC:
"This experiment from Google may well have benefits although we will need more detail to see how practically it will work.

"Most importantly it must be underpinned by clinical guidance from UK based health professionals as there are stark differences between the UK and the USA health systems and culture.

Top 10 health searches in the UK in 2015
1. Fibromyalgia
2. Chickenpox
3. Shingles
4. Diarrhoea
5. Pneumonia
6. Depression
7. Diabetes
8. Scarlet Fever
9. Tonsillitis
10. Anxiety

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