Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 30th 2013 Contents B36
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Health concerns "can trigger worries about potential
medical bills, disability and job loss," which can then
spawn more Internet research, visits to the doctor
and testing that wasn't ever needed.
If you re the type of person who needs definitive
answers, you might want to stop searching online
for health information. According to the results of
a new study, certain people who scour the Web for
answers to their medical problems may in fact end
up worried sick.
That s because when they have what s called "cyber-
chondria," a state of anxiety related to health research
on the Internet, it can get worse as reliable information
is sought, but not necessarily found. We ve all heard
of, and perhaps even experienced, hypochondria---
this is the version for the online world.
"If I m someone who doesn t like uncertainty, I
may become more anxious, search further, monitor
my body more, go to the doctor more frequently---
and the more you search, the more you consider the
possibilities," Thomas Fergus, an assistant professor
of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University
in Texas, said in a press release.
"If I see a site about traumatic brain injuries and
have difficulties tolerating uncertainty, I might be
more likely to worry that s the cause of the bump
on my head."
The findings, published in the journal Cyberpsy-
chology, Behavior, and Social Networking, note that,
along with specifically worrying about having a dis-
ease, health concerns "can trigger worries about
potential medical bills, disability and job loss," which
can then spawn more Internet research, visits to the
doctor and testing that wasn t ever needed.
The press release discussing the results says previous
research has indicated that about 80 per cent of
Americans go online to hunt for health information.
In this particular study, Fergus asked 512 healthy
adults, with an average age of 33.4, questions regarding
how much they worried about their health and
whether they wanted to know what was in store for
Searching for health info
online can make you sick
For some of us, this isn t the best
idea. It s possible that "the online glut
of medical information---some of it
from questionable sources---may be
more disturbing than that contained
in medical manuals," the release said.
The journal requires a subscription,
but, along with the press statement,
the abstract is free.
The article, titled, Cyberchondria
and Intolerance of Uncertainty: Exam-
ining When Individuals Experience
Health Anxiety in Response to Internet
Searches for Medical Information,
determined that, as a person s inability
to deal with health uncertainty grew,
" the relationship between the frequen-
cy of Internet searches for medical
information and health anxiety grew
increasingly stronger." (Yahoo.Finance)
Consumers have replaced a number of devices---
mp3 players, digital cameras, handheld games con-
soles---with their smartphones, so it seems possible
that the handsets could even replace expensive
The Peek Vision app just might be proving that
point, enabling roving doctors to give patients a full
eye exam using their smartphones.
Developed by members of the International Centre
for Eye Health---a research group based at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine---the app
leverages the existing functionalities of today s smart-
phones to allow doctors in rural or low-income areas
to deliver eye care to citizens in a mobile and inex-
Doctors and optometrists using Peek Vision will
be able to check patients abilities to see colour, test
for long- and short-sightedness, and also detect the
presence of cataracts and other eye conditions. The
app uses smartphones cameras, flashlights and
display to check how the eyes react to stimuli, while
doctors can also track the progress of separate patients
and also easily keep a record of their geolocation.
The team is currently carrying out research to
ensure the app is accurate enough for medical pur-
poses, although a release date and price hasn t yet
been announced. Are there other ways smartphone
features could replace professional equipment with
a cheap portable alternative?
App enables eye
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
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