Tempted to Web-Search Your Symptoms? Watch This

Video courtesy of http://www.gezondheidenwetenschap.be

“I have a deadly disease, and I’m going to die in six weeks.”

That is the ominous opening line of a video ad campaign commissioned by the Belgian government to discourage its citizens from obsessively researching medical symptoms on the Internet. The tone quickly turns comedic as the  speaker reveals he came to his terminal diagnosis after looking up possible causes for a simple eye twitch on Google. If the leap from common symptom to rare, deadly disease sounds ridiculous to you, then you might be one of the few people who have never searched for health information on the Web.

Apparently, Belgium has enough of a cyberchondria problem for its government to create a website that helps people find accurate evidence-based health information. According to gezondheidenetenschap.be (which translates to healthandscience.be): “An estimated 75 percent of people acquire knowledge about health [online]. In addition to very useful information on medical research, less accurate comments and sometimes downright wrong advice appear. People often do not know what to believe.”

Related: 15 Signs You’re a Cyberchondriac

To keep people from getting sucked into the vortex of self-diagnosis, the team behind the ad campaign went straight to the source of what it considers to be the problem. “All we had to do was warn people at the right time when they’re in the right place,” says the video’s speaker. “The right time being when they start to Google, and the right place — Google.” They used a Google AdWords campaign to place their message at the top of the search results for top 100 most searched symptoms. The message is simple: “Don’t Google it. Use a reliable source.”

Tempted to Web-Search Your Symptoms? Watch This

It’s a message that’s relevant far beyond the borders of Belgium. According to a recent study, Americans spend 52 hours per year looking up health information on the Internet. While many believe that patients become more empowered with easier access to this information, experts stress that the Internet alone should not be used to manage a person’s health. “While medical websites with symptom-checker tools … can provide valuable health information to patients, they should not be used as a replacement for a visit to the physician,” wrote the study authors. In fact, a 2012 study found that Googling can actually strengthen the doctor-patient relationship as long as the patient follows it up with a doctor visit and values the physician’s opinion more than the Internet information.

This funny video below could be the cure for cyberchondria.

Related: 6 Super Subtle Symptoms Guys Should Never Ever Ignore

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