Swine flu drives us online

With the dreaded swine flu dominating the headlines and being the main topic of conversation for people who don’t really have much else to talk about, it’s no shock that the number of us searching for the term online has risen.

According to the Department of Health, the number of people looking up flu information on the NHS website increased tenfold compared to last year.

Figures from NHS Choices show the site www.nhs.uk was clicked onto than 20 million times during winter, and that there were 50,000 searches for flu information compared to just 3,800 in 2009.

And it’s not just the dreaded swine that we’re panicking about with pneumonia, diabetes and pregnancy – well we can’t really class the last as a disease – listed as the most popular pages on the site. The busiest single day for the site was 13 December when there were 300,000 visits.

Research published this week from the London School of Economics found the number of people looking for health information online is set to soar again as workers return from holiday breaks. And research from Bupa also showed we are slowly becoming a nation of hypochondriacs.

Health Minister Simon Burns said: “NHS Choices has been able to provide timely and accurate information about flu and other conditions during winter months.

“The internet is a great resource for health-related information as long as people can use sources they can trust. Those people who log onto NHS Choices are often in a better position to use health services appropriately.”