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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 257-267

Exploring cyberchondria and its associations in dental students amid COVID-19 infodemic

1 Department of Psychiatry, M. S. Ramaiah Medical College, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, Dr. DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. B Shailaja
Department of Psychiatry, M. S. Ramaiah Medical College, M.S Ramaiah Nagar, MSRIT Post, Bengaluru - 560 054, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_212_20

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Background: Adverse psychological effect of pandemic includes not only increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression but also cyberchondria - the problematic online health research behavior. It is thought that the distress and uncertainty of pandemic clubbed with information overload and its ambiguity have paved the way for cyberchondria. Students being the vulnerable population, the present study was an effort at understanding cyberchondria in students. Aim: The aim of the study is to assess cyberchondria and its association with depression, anxiety, stress, and quality of life (QOL) in dental students during the pandemic. Materials and Methods: An online questionnaire-based survey was carried out on dental students. The survey tool comprised a semi-structured pro forma, General Health Questionnaire-12, Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale 21, Cyberchondria Severity Scale 15, and European Health Interview Survey QOL 8. Results: The study revealed that 98.7% of the students were affected by one of the constructs of cyberchondria, viz., “excessiveness” (93.7%), followed by “distress” (84.3%) and “reassurance”-seeking behavior (83.7%). Cyberchondria affected girls more than boys and shared robust positive correlation with depression, anxiety, and stress but not QOL. Factors such as stress, anxiety, QOL, and changes in appetite were associated with higher severity of depression. Family financial losses, preexisting psychiatric illness, and media adverse effect shared robust positive associations with severity of depression, anxiety, and stress and an inverse association with QOL. 76.0% of the students expressed excessive worries regarding missing out on clinical exposure, and nearly half of the students were dissatisfied with eLearning. 78.3% of the students experienced changes in sleep; 68.7% had changes in appetite; and 89.0% reported reduction in the level of physical activity. Conclusion: Cyberchondria is affecting the large majority of students. Educational institutions must put efforts to sensitize students about cyberchondria.

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