What’s the most Googled disease in your state?

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published May 15, 2019

Key Takeaways

Like it or not, the age of Dr. Google has come. And while physicians’ opinions on whether patients Googling their symptoms and perhaps coming up with their own diagnoses benefits or harms the physician-patient relationship are divided, the reality is that 72% of adults in the United States who use the internet have Googled health information.

To learn more about exactly what Americans are Googling, TermLife2Go, an online life insurance agency, conducted a national report. Their results are both surprising and informative.

The honor of the most Googled disease goes to human papilloma virus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. And although heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death, it was the top Google in only one state—Maine. Coming in tied for second most Googled diseases in the nation were diabetes and celiac disease.

In an exclusive interview with MDLinx, the researchers at TermLife2Go commented on the trends they found in their report:

“According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Many physicians are now recommending their patients receive a vaccine to prevent its spread, so this could explain why Americans are googling the disease to find out what it is and why they need the vaccine. The gluten-free diet trend could be one explanation for why Americans were Googling celiac disease so frequently in our report. As for diabetes, more than 100 million Americans are now living with diabetes. As this number continues to grow, it makes sense that Googlers would be concerned about the causes and symptoms of this common but serious disease.” 

Here’s a breakdown of what they discovered, according to the five regions of the country, as well as by individual states:


HPV was the most Googled disease in most Western states, including Washington, California, and Nevada. Oregon was the outlier, with AIDS being the number one most googled disease. Trends in the rest of these states were as follows:

  • Idaho and Utah: Celiac disease
  • Colorado: Asthma
  • Wyoming: Pulmonary hypertension and Crohn’s disease
  • Montana: Rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease


In the Southwest, HPV was most Googled in Arizona and Texas, while searches for diabetes topped the list in New Mexico, and lupus in Oklahoma.


In the Southeast, Virginians, North Carolinians, Georgians, and Arkansans (or Arkansawyers) Googled HPV the most. In the remaining Southeastern states, the top Google searches were as follows:

  • Tennessee: Asthma
  • Kentucky: Emphysema and asthma
  • South Carolina: Scleroderma
  • Florida: Cancer and HPV
  • Louisiana and Alabama: AIDS
  • Mississippi: AIDS and multiple sclerosis
  • West Virginia: COPD, stroke, kidney disease, and rheumatoid arthritis


Folks in the Midwestern states were all over the map (no pun intended) with their Google searches habits. And, surprisingly, HPV was the most Googled disease only in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana—the latter of which split the bill with diabetes. The rest of the states were as follows:

  • North Dakota: Liver disease
  • South Dakota: Diabetes
  • Nebraska: Scleroderma
  • Kansas: Celiac disease
  • Minnesota: Epilepsy
  • Iowa: Diabetes
  • Missouri: Colitis
  • Wisconsin: Diabetes and celiac disease
  • Illinois: Relapsing polychondritis


Results from the Northeast states were more varied. HPV was still the most Googled disease in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, but the rest of the states differed significantly:

  • Maine: Heart disease, Ebola virus, and Lyme disease (not coincidently, 2017 was a record year for cases of Lyme disease in this state).
  • Vermont and Massachusetts: Alzheimer’s disease
  • Connecticut: Asthma
  • New Jersey: Colitis
  • New York: Cancer, HPV, Colitis, and Crohn’s disease
  • New Hampshire: Celiac disease
  • Delaware: Liver disease

Finally, HIV and infectious diseases were most Googled in Washington, D.C. In Alaska, the most Googled diseases were asthma, stroke, and liver disease. In Hawaii, diabetes was #1.


What this means to you and your patient

When talking with your patients, it’s important to not only diagnose and treat, but also to educate the patient on their condition(s). According to Emeka Onyedika, MD, PhysicianSense contributor, this also reinforces your knowledge, thereby making you a better doctor.  Believe it or not, health-related internet searches by your patients may make them more health literate, and improve communications with you, their physician. Since so many patients do use Google to research their symptoms, make sure to educate them on reliable sources, such as MayoClinic.org, CDC.gov, and NIH.gov.

“With the rise of online symptom checkers and medical websites, many patients already get worked up qabout potentially inaccurate self-diagnoses before they even reach your waiting room. This means that providing accurate information and remaining accessible to patients seeking answers is more important than ever,” the folks at TermLife2Go concluded.

For some handy advice on how to talk with patients  about their Google searching, see our article on How to compete with ‘Dr. Google.’

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