research reveals popularity of online symptom research

From: Boots
Published: Mon Apr 29 2013

New research commissioned by has revealed over a third (39%) of Brits go online to find information on their symptoms before going to a healthcare professional.

The survey of 2,000 people across the UK showed that in total, 69% of Brits went online in the last 12 months to search for information on medical symptoms. Together they spent a total of 231 million hours* researching information about medical conditions.

Embarrassing symptoms were the most common health topics searched for, and it was revealed. The research showed women (47%) are more likely to go online than men (38%) to look for information around these kinds of symptoms.

Amongst the most common reasons given by people for going online for medical information was that the process is ‘fast, easy and convenient’ (47%), while nearly a third of those polled (31%) said that internet research was less embarrassing than talking to other people (31%). Almost a quarter (24%) said that they felt more confident visiting their healthcare professional after searching for information online on symptoms has pointed to the research to highlight the importance of having access to credible information on symptoms. Nearly half (47%) of Brits said they are more likely to visit a health information website to look up symptoms if the content has been medically reviewed.

GP and contributor Dr Rob Hicks said of the practice: "Online health information sites may offer great benefits to people and help them to feel empowered to have productive conversations about their symptoms with their healthcare professional. It is important that people can readily access reliable and credible sites such as which provide medically reviewed content."

Once people have searched for their symptoms online a fifth (20%) said they were able to ask their healthcare professional more informed questions, while over a third (38%) made an appointment to visit a healthcare professional within a week.

The survey revealed that people in the UK are also looking for information on symptoms for their loved ones, with 37% searching for their children, 31% for their partner and 26% searching for their parents. Women are twice as likely (20%) to search for health symptoms online for their children (under 18 years old) compared to men (11%).

Notes to Editors:
*The number of people in the UK is 63,200,000 (based on Office for National Statistics figures) and 80% go online to search for information on symptoms = 50,560,000 (based on the survey). Of these, 69% have looked online for information on a symptom in the last year which equals 34,886,400 (based on the survey). The average time each person spends per year searching for symptoms online is 6 hours and 38 minutes, so a total of 231 million hours a year are spent on the activity.

The consumer research was commissioned by and conducted by OnePoll between 22.03.2013 and 25.03.13 among 2000 UK adults (58% women and 42% men) who have looked online for information about health symptoms. does not provide medical advice. It is intended for general information purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about health conditions. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the Boots WebMD Site. If you have an urgent medical problem please calls your doctor or NHS direct immediately, or in the case of emergencies dials 999.

About is a collaboration between Boots, one of the UK's most trusted pharmacy-led health and beauty retailers, and WebMD, one of the world's leading online health information sites. A team of UK-based health journalists and physicians ensures that all content is relevant and medically accurate. In addition to original content, has partnered with leading content providers such as the British Medical Journal (BMJ Best Treatments) and the National Health Service from NHS Choices. Other site highlights include the WebMD Symptom Checker*, the Medicines and treatment centre, and slideshows and videos.

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Contact Name: Hayley Sleigh
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