Research led by the University of Amsterdam show that health anxiety is linked with searching for health information online and actively posting health-related information online. The first study was an online survey. The survey used the Whitely Index to measure the participants’ level of health anxiety. Participants were then asked how often they search the Internet for health information concerning their own health. Results showed that health anxiety was linked with searching for health information online and actively posting health-related information online. In the second study, participants were asked to read something online about a fake bacterial disease. Half of the participants were given the information as an official announcement on a Public Health Service website (the trustworthy source in the experiment). The other half of the participants were given the information by a user posting on a popular health forum, (the less trustworthy source). Findings from this second study show that online health information results in greater worries among health anxious individuals compared to non-health anxious individuals but only if the information comes from a trustworthy governmental Web site. Information from a less trustworthy online forum does not lead to greater worries among health anxious individuals. Ultimately, the Internet seems to play a key role in the lives of health anxious individuals.
Title: The Role of Health Anxiety in Online Health Information Search
Authors: Susanne E. Baumgartner and Tilo Hartmann
Laboratory: University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Journal: Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking (2011), Vol. 00 (00) pp. 1-6