Study shows 51% of people in Ireland look up their symptoms online when they feel unwell

When you first feel a tickle in your throat, have a headache that lasts longer than a couple of hours or just a weird ache that wont go away, what's the first thing that you do?

Probably what most of us do - hop online to check out what Dr. Google has to say.

New research from Astellas reveals that the first thing 51% of people in Ireland do when feeling unwell is check their symptoms online, and since the Covid-19 pandemic began, 36% now prioritise online searches over GP visits to diagnose health issues.

Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt Using Silver Laptop Computer

Furthermore, one in four have incorrectly diagnosed themselves with a medical condition due to information found via online search engines, and 59% are not sure if the health information they are viewing online is trusted or approved by medical professionals.

This new national research has been carried out by Astellas as part of its Control OAB campaign to encourage more people to talk to their GP if they experience concerns or symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB). The medical condition OAB currently affects more than 350,000 people across Ireland. Although one in four women previously surveyed, aged 40-70, have experienced OAB related symptoms and 52% of those with OAB in Ireland are men – over a third of people (36%) have never actually heard of the condition.

These new findings suggest that people with undiagnosed medical conditions like OAB may continue suffering symptoms in silence, instead of consulting expert healthcare professionals for proper medical advice and treatment. Indeed, while many people seek reassurance online in relation to their health concerns, over half (51%) admit that searching health symptoms online often leaves them feeling more anxious than reassured. 

To help improve public understanding of OAB and encourage more women and men aged 40+ to identify and control OAB symptoms, Astellas is launching a new educational podcast series in early 2022 called Control OAB. The series will consist of candid conversations with healthcare professionals and OAB patients who will share personal experiences and advice about OAB, with the overall aim of encouraging people to speak to their GP or visit OAB.ie for more information.

Crop doctor with stethoscope in hospital

Consultant Urologist Mr. James Forde at Blackrock Clinic commented, “Despite the fact that over 350,000 people suffer from overactive bladder (OAB) in Ireland, surprisingly more than one in three (36%) have never heard of the condition before. Contrary to common misperceptions surrounding OAB, it’s a condition that is prevalent among both men and women and can occur in people of all ages - though it most commonly affects those aged 40-70.

“With this new research showing that so many people are now looking to online search engines to self-diagnose health symptoms and a considerable number (25%) actually misdiagnosing themselves as a result, it is more important than ever to consult a medical professional if you are experiencing new or concerning health symptoms.

“OAB is a condition that once diagnosed and treated by a medical professional, can be controlled to the point of substantially improving a patient’s quality of life – removing the need to tolerate debilitating symptoms in silence, and allowing people to regain control and happiness in their daily lives. I strongly advise anyone who is concerned about OAB to visit their GP or find more information at oab.ie”

For more information about OAB visit OAB.ie.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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