Microsoft released a study this week that examines the causes of "cyberchondria," the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online. An article in today's New York Times aptly puts it: "If that headache plaguing you this morning led you first to a Web search and then to the conclusion that you must have a brain tumor, you may instead be suffering from cyberchondria."
The high anxiety of cyberchondria could itself be a health hazard. The researchers found that Web searches for things like stomach or chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare. Their examination of search records indicated that researching particular symptoms often led quickly to anxiousness.
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