Cyberchondria: An emerging form of health anxiety
Sujana Devi Gandla1, Prasanth P Dayala2, Pavan Kumar Kadiyala3
1 Post Graduate, Department of Psychiatry, Alluri Sitarama Raju Academy of Medical Sciences, Dr. NTRUHS, Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Alluri Sitarama Raju Academy of Medical Sciences, Dr. NTRUHS, Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India
3 Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Alluri Sitarama Raju Academy of Medical Sciences, Dr. NTRUHS, Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India
Sujana Devi Gandla,
Flat No. 202, 3rd Floor, Sri Ramana Nivas, Chanakyapuri Colony, A-Camp, Kurnool - 518 002, Andhra Pradesh
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: It is common among medical students to incorrectly believe that they have contracted certain diseases they have recently studied. This belief can be seen in the form of health anxiety and investigating health-related information via the Internet. Cyberchondria denotes repeated online searches for health-related information that are associated with increasing levels of health anxiety.
Aims: We aimed to study the prevalence and severity of cyberchondria among medical students and its correlation with sociodemographic and clinical data.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted on 400 consented medical students using online Google Forms. The form included demographic and clinical details and the Cyberchondria Severity Scale-15 (CSS-15) questionnaire. Means and standard deviations were calculated for continuous variables and percentages for categorical variables. The k-means clustering was done for grouping the participants. Spearman correlation and linear regression were done for analyzing the data.
Results: The mean age of the participants was 19.28 ± 1.75 years. Females constituted 54.3% of the sample. About 24.5% of the students had previously diagnosed (medical/surgical/psychiatric) illness. The mean score of the CSS was 30.86 ± 9.44. Three clusters with 28%, 66%, and 6% of the students represented the CSS cluster center scores of 19.22 (mild), 34.10 (moderate), and 49.63 (severe), respectively. There was a significant positive correlation between total CSS score and previously diagnosed illness (r = 0.233, P = 0.000) and negative correlation with age (r = −0.151, P = 0.003) and year of study (r = −0.254, P = 0.000).
Conclusion: The increasing prevalence of cyberchondria is an example of how digital technology may play an important role in facilitating the development of psychopathology.