Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Cyberchondria, self-diagnosis and sourcing health information via the web to be explored at RCSI MiniMed lecture

28 November 2012
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) MiniMed Open Lecture Series continues on Wednesday, 28th November, with Cyberchondria, self-diagnosis and finding health information over the internet being discussed. The lectures, which are free of charge to the public, will be delivered by Mary Aiken, RCSI Institute of Leadership, and Kate Kelly, RCSI Chief Librarian at the College from 7-9pm in the O'Flanagan Lecture Theatre.

Cyberchondria is a phenomenon where a person, concerned he/she is suffering from certain symptoms, constantly turns to the internet to find out what is wrong with them - frequently diagnosing themselves with a worst-case scenario condition. This condition, more common among women, is ‘escalation from looking at a base symptom to a very serious condition, just by looking up information online', according to Mary Aiken.

According to a recent study, nearly half (46%) of Irish people use the internet for a medical diagnosis instead of visiting their GP . Aiken warns us that some of these individuals can go as far as to order medication via the web and take ‘excessive doses of the wrong medication for a condition that they did not have'. So is there a safe way we can seek information on health issues on the internet?

Self-diagnosis, although discouraged by medics, can empower people who will feel they are taking control of their own health issues. However, Kate Kelly warns that those who look online for health solutions should exercise caution. She asks, ‘Why is the website being provided - is it educational or selling a product... Just because a website is popular doesn't make it a good site'. Kelly says there are a handful of websites where one could find reliable information which is ‘content rich, you're able to look up conditions alphabetically and you have a lot of resources'. Kate Kelly's lecture, entitled "Finding health information on the Internet: the consumer approach" will precede Mary Aiken's talk, "Cyberchondria: the Internet and Self-diagnosis".

The RCSI MiniMed Open Lecture Series is free of charge; however registration is essential in order to guarantee a place. Register online at