In today’s world of WebMD and Wikipedia, it can sometimes seem like everyone’s an expert in the field of medicine whether they’re a medical professional or not. Even with over 18 million people in the UK living with long-term conditions, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about certain illnesses.
To help highlight some of the conditions the UK public are most unaware of, we set about conducting research of our own, using Google search data to uncover the illnesses and conditions that people across the UK may not understand in terms of their definition. Then, we carried out a survey to further investigate the opinion of these illnesses and conditions, using results from our Google research to support the survey.
Starting with stomas
There are a number of medical reasons why a person may be referred for stoma surgery, including some rare conditions and uncommon illnesses. To shed a little light on the reasoning behind stoma surgery, here are some of the conditions ostomates face, along with their definitions.
Understanding the condition which leads to stoma surgery can help the newly diagnosed or recently referred to better prepare for the operation. Additionally, the information highlighted by a Google search can help raise awareness amongst the wider public. The condition will often determine the different type of stoma (colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy) as well as the changes that will have to be made after the surgery.
Overall research findings
Digging into the deeper findings from the research, here are some of the key stats and surprising facts we uncovered.
- 92% of our participants admitted to searching about medical conditions online to some degree, with responses varying from ‘sometimes’, ‘a reasonable amount’, ‘often’ and ‘all the time. A mere 8% of Brits said they never search about medical conditions online.
- When it came to having concerns or experiencing symptoms of illness, over half of participants (51%) stated they would search online first. Just under a third (31%) would opt to see a healthcare professional, while 17% stated they’d ask friends and family.
- 69% of our participants believe that social media plays a part in raising awareness of illnesses and conditions. However, a separate question led 75% to believe that social media can also lead to misinformation about these ailments.
- The condition that Brits least understood, lupus, garnered an average of 27,000 monthly searches. Anxiety and multiple sclerosis were the joint-second most searched for illnesses, with an average of 22,000 searches.
- Despite being the second most-searched illness definition, 78% of our participants said they personally who someone who is suffering or has suffered from anxiety. Not only does this show how common anxiety is, but the results also suggest that we’ve still much to learn about it.
- Just under half (44%) of participants stated that mental illness is inaccurately represented in fictional TV shows.
- 7 out of 10 believe that learning about different medical conditions and illness awareness should be part of the education system.
Keyword results – Top 10 most searched for medical conditions
Age-specific insights from our results
Searching for health/medical conditions online
Often the most digitally-savvy, 28% of our youngest participants stated they Googled medical conditions/illnesses ‘all the time’. In fact, this age range all search for medical information to some degree; 0% of those aged 18-24 stated this was something they ‘never’ did.
Only 1 in 10 of the next age range, 25-39, said they never search online about medical conditions. This small amount means that 90% of them search online for information at least sometimes. The 40–54-year-old age range followed a similar pattern.
As for 55–74-year-olds, 93% stated they search for medical conditions online at least sometimes. Just 7% stated this is something they would never do. Meanwhile, 100% of those in the 75+ age range stated they would seek out information online to some degree.
Learning about conditions and illnesses in school
With 0% stating they would ‘never’ look for information online, it’s unsurprising that nearly 9 out of 10 in the 18-24 age range believe that learning about different medical conditions and illness awareness should be part of the curriculum in schools.
82% of the 25-39 participants stated the same, while 66% and 60% of the next two age ranges respectively also believe more information within schools is needed. 67% of those aged 75 and above stated they were unsure that such topics should be part of the education system.
Illnesses and conditions across social media
The above could account for why 67% of 18–24-year-olds think that social media helps to raise awareness of illnesses and conditions. Feeling the education system is lacking, it seems this age group are looking for alternative means to learn about medical matters.
Interestingly, however, despite being the generation known for using social media the most, a huge 94% believe that social media spreads misinformation about illnesses and conditions.
At 76%, more in the 25-39 age range believe that social media helps to raise awareness, while 74% believe its spread confusion and misinformation about illnesses and conditions. 68% of those in the 40-54 age range believe social media plays its part in raising awareness, though 76% believed it can also lead to falsehoods surrounding such information.
As for 55–74-year-olds, the number of those who believe social media has a positive effect on raising awareness of illnesses and conditions fell to 66%. Meanwhile, 74% stated such platforms can actually be detrimental.
Lastly, 56% of those in the 75+ age range felt positively about social media’s effects on spreading awareness, while 78% (the second-highest percentage after 18–24-year-olds) believed it had the opposite effect.
Mental illness in fictional TV shows
When it came to depictions of mental illness on fictional TV shows, the younger age ranges certainly felt strongly about how it came across. 61% believed that the conditions that concern mental illness are not accurately represented.
Just 19% of the next age range up believed that such representations were accurate. This suggests that, perhaps, we’ve still some way to go before these common but confusing illnesses are better depicted on the small screen.
Experiencing symptoms: What do they do first?
If our participants experienced symptoms or had health concerns, then their first responses were all broadly the same. In line with the frequency of searching for information online, 56% of our 18-24 participants said they would head to the internet first before doing anything else. 28% stated they’d first speak to a professional, while 17% said they’d go to friends or family first.
53% of 25–39-year-olds, 40–54-year-olds and 75+ stated they would also search online, while 45% of 55–74-year-olds mentioned following suit, a number that was almost split with speaking to a healthcare professional first (43%).
Of the 25-39 age range, 24% said they’d seek out their friends and family for a second opinion, while 22% favoured the help of a healthcare professional. As for 75-year-olds and above, the words of a medical professional held particular sway: 44% said this would be their first action should they be concerned about their health.
The top 10 most Googled conditions & illnesses: What do they mean?
So, whilst it is a positive thing that so many people are looking to increase their knowledge of illnesses using Google and other search engines, we would always recommend consulting a medical professional. Self-diagnosis can be a dangerous route to take, and a professional’s opinion is a much safer option. However, arming yourself with as much information as possible before seeking professional help can be a good thing – ensuring you’ve got all the right questions and facts to hand.
At Trio, we’re dedicated to letting you live your life your way: comfortably, safely, and worry-free. To check out our essential range of skincare products head here, and for more stoma advice, news and guest posts, take a look at the Trio blog here