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A cross-sectional study on prevalence of cyberchondria and factors influencing it among undergraduate students

Shameem R Kanganolli, Praveen Kumar N.

Abstract
Background: The internet is a source of valuable medical information. However, when it is employed as a diagnostic procedure, it has the potential to increase health anxiety among individuals who have no medical knowledge. This is a concerning subject as a large number of people search for health information online.

Objectives: The objectives of the study were (i) to estimate the prevalence of cyberchondria among undergraduate medical students. (ii) To assess the factors influencing cyberchondria among undergraduate medical students.

Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among undergraduate medical students of Shivamogga Institute of Medical Sciences, during June 2018–August 2018. One hundred and thirty-six undergraduate medical students were selected and data were collected using a semi-structured questionnaire. A database was created in MS Excel and analysis was done using SPSS software v.20. Descriptive statistics such as frequency and percentage were calculated and Chi-square test was used.

Results: The prevalence of cyberchondria was found to be 37.5%. Cyberchondria was found to be more among males, study participants belonging to Class I according to the modified B G Prasad classification, those having 24*7 access to internet, those using internet for more than 1 h during the night, and those who were using internet for ≤5 years and for ≤6 h/day. Cyberchondria was significantly associated with the use of internet during the night.

Conclusion: Excessive searching for health information online has the potential to spread threat among the people and it may lead to an increase in health anxiety. We can overcome this problem by creating awareness among the general public regarding proper usage of web search engines.

Key words: Cyberchondria; Health Anxiety; Internet; Medical Search Online


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