Does the internet scare us? PhD thesis defense on cyberchondria by Fam te Poel

Published on September 11 2018 – Cyberchondria refers to the mutual relation between searching for online health information and related fears and worries about one’s own health. Research into the role of cyberchondria is important, because nowadays consider the internet to be their primary source of health-related information, even before their general practitioner. Even though the availability of online health information has various positive effects, there are also potential downsides to this availability: not only is online health information not always easily understandable for everyone,but it is also unclear how reliable online health-related information actually is. In her PhD thesis, Fam investigated how searching for online health information is mutually related to feelings of fear about one’s own health. Her research shows that increased searching for online health information is related to increased feelings of fear about one’s own health – however, this effect was not found for those who already had strong feelings of fear prior to online searching.

Fam advises people  who are interested in reading information about their health to not do this using search terms in search engines such as Google, but rather use reliable websites. She also advises general practitioners to inform their patients about which available online sources about health are reliable.

ACHC members Julia van Weert and Gert-Jan de Bruijn were part of the examination committee of her PhD thesis.

The defense of her PhD thesis entitled ‘The curious case of cyberchondria: A study of the relationship between online health information seeking and health anxiety’ will take place on Friday September 14th 2018 at 11H45 in the Aula of the Free University in Amsterdam.

Link to thesis: