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Over a third of Brits go online as first port of call for information on symptoms

01 April 2013
Feature Healthcare

New research reveals that over a third (39%) of Brits are going online first to find information on health symptoms, with the North East (78%) going online more than any other area. The survey of 2,000 people across the UK, which was commissioned by, shows 69% of Brits were online in the last 12 months searching for information on medical symptoms, spending on average 231 million hours a year online.
Embarrassing symptoms are the most common health topics searched for online, with women (47%) more likely to go online than men (38%) to look for information around these kind of symptoms. Amongst the most common reasons for going online, people stated that it was ‘fast, easy and convenient’ (47%) and less embarrassing than talking to other people (31%). More women than men (34% vs 23%) also felt that going online helped to put their mind at rest about a certain health symptom.
The research highlights the importance of having access to information on symptoms, as this can inspire people to take control of their health. Once people have searched for their symptoms online:

  • nearly a quarter (24%) felt more confident visiting their healthcare professional
  • a fifth (20%)  were able to ask their healthcare professional more informed questions
  • over a third (38%) made an appointment to visit a healthcare professional within a week.

Dr Rob Hicks, GP and contributor says: “Online health information sites may offer great benefits to people and help them to feel empowered to have productive conversations about their symptoms with their healthcare professional. It is also important that people can readily access reliable and credible sites such as which provide medically reviewed content.” 
The survey reveals that people in the UK are also looking for information on symptoms for their loved ones, with 37% searching for their children, 31% for their partner and 26% searching for their parents. Women are twice as likely (12%) to search for health symptoms online for their children (over 18 years old) compared to men (6%). offers GP reviewed information about health subjects that matter. The content blends award-winning expertise in journalism, content creation, expert commentary, and medical review to give visitors what they are looking for – the best health information possible. The credible and interactive WebMD Symptom Checker to help those looking for information on symptoms online is also available at
Notes to Editors

About is a collaboration between Boots, one of the UK's most trusted pharmacy-led health and beauty retailers, and WebMD, one of the world's leading online health information sites. A team of UK-based health journalists and physicians ensures that all content is relevant and medically accurate. In addition to original content, has partnered with leading content providers such as the British Medical Journal (BMJ Best Treatments) and the National Health Service from NHS Choices. Other site highlights include the WebMD Symptom Checker*, the Medicines and treatment centre, and slideshows and videos.
*THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general information purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the Boots WebMD Site. If you have an urgent medical problem please call your doctor, or NHS direct, immediately or in the case of emergencies dial 999.
About the survey
Consumer research commissioned by and conducted by OnePoll, carried out among 2000 UK adults (58% women and 42% men) who have looked online for information about health symptoms. Research was carried out between 22.03.2013 and 25.03.13.


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Boots is the UK’s leading health and beauty retailer with over 52,000 team members and 2,100 stores, ranging from local community pharmacies to large destination health and beauty stores.*

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*Figures accurate as of 30 November 2023