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Internet Popular With People Seeking Health Information

From Researching Medical Conditions to Tracking Weight and Reading Blogs, Survey Shows Web's Popularity Among Health Information Seekers
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 12, 2011 -- Millions of Americans turn to the Internet for medical information, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

The survey also finds that although people heavily use information found online, doctors, nurses, and other health professionals are the first choice for advice about health concerns.

The survey, based on telephone interviews with 3,001 adults in the U.S., finds that of the 74% of Americans who use the Internet, 80% have looked online for information about any of 15 health topics, such as a specific disease or treatment. Pew says this translates to 59% of all adults.

Blogs and Online Groups for Health Information

Other key findings of the survey:

  • 34% of Internet users or 25% of adults have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, web site, or blog.
  • 24% of Internet users, or 18% of adults, have gone online to read reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments.
  • 18% of Internet users, or 13% of adults, have looked online to find others with similar health concerns.
  • 16% of Internet users, or 12% of adults, have consulted online rankings or reviews of physicians or other health care providers.
  • 15% of people who go online, or 11% of adults, have consulted rankings or reviews of hospitals or other medical facilities.

Pew researchers say that as broadband and mobile access spreads, more people are sharing what they are doing or thinking. This includes tracking workout routines, posting reviews of their medical treatments, and raising awareness about certain health conditions.

And some patients and caregivers are taking an active role in tracking and sharing what they have learned. For example, of adults who use the Internet:

  • 27% of users or 20% of adults have tracked their weight, diet, exercise routines, or other health indicators or symptoms.
  • 6% of Internet users have posted comments, questions, or information about health or medical issues on a web site, such as a news site.
  • 4% of Internet users have discussed their experiences with various drugs online, 4% have written reviews of doctors, and 3% have posted opinions of hospitals.

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