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Variations in trust in Dr Google when experiencing potential breast cancer symptoms: exploring motivations to seek health information online

Marcu, A; Black, G; Whitaker, KL; (2018) Variations in trust in Dr Google when experiencing potential breast cancer symptoms: exploring motivations to seek health information online. Health, Risk & Society , 20 (7-8) pp. 325-341. 10.1080/13698575.2018.1550742. Green open access

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Abstract

How people trust the internet and seek health information online when experiencing and interpreting potential cancer symptoms is not well understood. We interviewed 27 women who had recently experienced at least one potential breast cancer symptom, and explored their symptom experience, help-seeking strategies, and whether they consulted the internet in relation to their symptoms. We conducted a thematic analysis and constructed a typology of attitudes towards, and experiences of, consulting the internet about the symptoms: i) confident; ii) neutral; iii) hesitant; and iv) avoidant. ‘Hesitant’ and ‘avoidant’ participants rarely mentioned cancer explicitly, doubted being able to interpret the information found online, and expressed concerns over finding ‘scaremongering’ information or making incorrect self-diagnosis. The ‘avoiders’ and the ‘hesitant’ participants perceived online information-seeking as being inherently risky, partly because online health content is likely to be inaccurate or exaggerated, and partly because the process of lay interpretation is likely to be flawed by lack of medical expertise. The findings suggest that not all women experiencing potential breast cancer symptoms seek health information online spontaneously or trust the internet as a legitimate source of health information. The women who did engage in online information seeking, particularly those with lower education, felt unsure about how to appraise online health sources to interpret their symptoms.

Type: Article
Title: Variations in trust in Dr Google when experiencing potential breast cancer symptoms: exploring motivations to seek health information online
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13698575.2018.1550742
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2018.1550742
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Social Sciences, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Public, Environmental & Occupational Health, Social Sciences, Biomedical, Biomedical Social Sciences, breast cancer, early diagnosis, internet, online information-seeking, trust, OLDER-ADULTS, INTERNET, AVOIDANCE, CARE, WEB, INEQUALITIES, RESPONSES, LITERACY, PATIENT, SEARCH
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Applied Health Research
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10065722
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