December 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm , by Amelia Harnish
I can’t remember what life was like before search engines—I turn to the Internet for answers about everything, even my health. Like most people with a computer, at the first sign of symptoms, I’m usually hunting down my own diagnosis before I’ve even thought about calling the doctor.
“People turn to the web for quick answers,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., a New York-based emergency room physician. “A lot of times when people come see me they already have an idea of what’s wrong with them.”
So what health woes were on our minds this year? As part of their Year in Review coverage, the folks at Yahoo! parsed data from billions of searches for the top 10 health-related terms for 2010, and the results might surprise you.
1. Pregnancy, 2. Diabetes, 3. Herpes, 4. Shingles, 5. Lupus, 6. Depression, 7. Breast cancer, 8. Gall bladder, 9. HIV, 10. Fibromyalgia
Pregnancy is consistently at the top, says Vera Chan, a Yahoo! web trend analyst, but it’s not just moms-to-be doing the digging. “Early symptoms of pregnancy” and “pregnancy tests” were among the top search phrases, which are likely from women concerned that they might be pregnant.
“Pregnancy also figures in reality shows these days—16 and Pregnant, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant—and celebrity pregnancies spur their own round of queries,” Chan says.
While diabetes and pregnancy aren’t all that surprising, how did herpes get into the top three? According to the latest numbers from the CDC, prevalence of the herpes simplex virus remains high at about 16 percent. Plus, many people are uncomfortable discussing their sexual health with family, friends and even their doctors, so they turn to the web, Dr. Glatter says. The same goes for HIV coming in at number nine.
“I think there’s also an increased sense of the need for testing, so that may be why people are searching for it,” he adds.
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, between 75% and 80% of all Internet users have looked online for health information. But Chan says that women conduct health searches more often than men, which may be why diseases more common in women, like lupus and fibromyalgia, found their way into the top 10.
Dr. Glatter was stunned that autism didn’t make it onto the list this year. What do you think—anything else missing?