Taking Charge: Health, Attitudes Toward Doctors, and Self-Diagnosing
The Ladies' Home Journal Nationwide Health Survey, April 2006
A new nationwide study reveals that a significant number of women self-diagnose health conditions, and many of these women are likely to try self-treating illnesses before seeking professional help. According to the findings, the growing access to health information is fueling a sense of confidence among women in making their own diagnosis.
Ladies' Home Journal magazine commissioned the study "Taking Charge: Health, Attitudes Toward Doctors, and Self-Diagnosing," to determine whether women are relying more heavily on their own diagnoses, and how this affects their family's health.
"Women have a tendency to take care of everyone in the house and themselves, and while there's nothing wrong with doing some research on your own, proper consultation with a doctor is critical to maintaining health," says Marianne J. Legato, MD, founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and medical advisor to Ladies' Home Journal. "Every patient deserves an attentive, well-informed physician who will answer questions clearly; if this is not the case for you, change doctors."The Findings: Over 50 Percent of Us Self-Diagnose
More than half (57 percent) of all women say they self-diagnose at least sometimes; nearly two-thirds under the age of 40 (62 percent) stated as such; 53 percent of women age 50+ self-diagnose.
- Among younger women (aged 25-39), 33 percent say they self-diagnose more now than they did five years ago; compared one out of five women (22 percent) aged 40-64.
Why are these women self-diagnosing? Access to more relevant health information (61 percent); more confidence in their own medical judgment (39 percent); more experienced and knowledgeable about health issues (38 percent); and seldom feeling they need medical care (33 percent).
- Among women who self-diagnose less than they did five years ago, the key reasons for their behavior include life changes that have made them more cautious (54 percent); they have found a doctor they like and trust (34 percent); and their health issues have become more complicated (30 percent).
Self-diagnosing serious illness: Nearly half of all women surveyed (45 percent) say that they would first try to diagnose and/or treat sharp pain in the upper abdomen of their children before seeking medical attention, a potentially serious risk.
- Overall, between 15 and 45 percent of all women say that they would first diagnose and/or treat conditions in their children themselves, even with potentially serious conditions ranging from a very severe headache complex to sharp abdominal pain lasting 4 hours.