September 5, 2018 11:31 pm

‘Dr. Internet?’ Poll finds 1 in 6 British Columbians rely solely on the web for medical advice

A troubling new study says one in six British Columbians consult the internet to diagnose or treat a health problem, without also seeing a doctor.


One in six B.C. residents is relying solely on “Dr. Internet” to answer their health questions, according to a new poll.

The Research Co. survey found more than two-thirds of British Columbians had gone online to research a particular illness or condition over the last year.

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But it also found that 16 per cent of respondents said their online efforts to diagnose or treat a specific medical condition were not accompanied by a trip to the doctor.

“There is a generational gap when it comes to British Columbians who combine information from the internet with a trip to the general practitioner,” said Research Co. president Mario Canseco.

“Millennials are more likely to conduct research before they see their doctor, while Baby Boomers are more likely to go online after their visit.”

WATCH: New report warns of looming doctor shortage in B.C.

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The poll found that four in 10 British Columbians went online to find information about prescription drugs, a figure that climbed to 49 per cent for those aged 55 and older.

The survey also found that more women (54 per cent) had gone online to find information on nutrition, exercise or weight control than men (41 per cent).

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About one in four (23 per cent) logged on to get information about mental health, a figure that jumped to 32 per cent among millennials and Generation Z.

The poll also found millennials more likely to turn to the internet for answers on sexual health, with 33 per cent saying they consulted the web for answers, compared to the provincial average of 18 per cent.

The results come as B.C. faces a looming doctor shortage, with many in the province unable to find a GP or relying frequently on walk-in clinics.

About 15 per cent of British Columbians don’t have access to a regular doctor, and a Canadian Medical Association Journal report has warned the problem will get worse with a large number of physicians expected to retire in the coming years.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 14, 2018, among 800 adult British Columbians.

It is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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