Many in US seek health information online: study

May 12, 2011
An illustration photo of an elderly Internet user. Four out of five Internet users have searched for health information online, but the Web is still no substitute for the doctor when it comes to a personal medical issue, said a US study Thursday.

Four out of five Internet users have searched for health information online, but the Web is still no substitute for the doctor when it comes to a personal medical issue, said a US study Thursday.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with 3,001 adults in the United States in August and September 2010, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and published by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

Eighty percent of , or about 59 percent of the US population, searched online for one of 15 , whether a food recall, environmental hazard, or information on a specific disease, hospital or doctor.

One in three US adults said the Internet helped inform their own or those of someone they know, and only three percent said they or someone they know has been harmed by following online health advice.

Blogs were also popular for learning about other people's experiences.

Thirty-four percent of Internet users said they have read someone else's commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website or blog.

But when asked about the last time they experienced a issue, 70 percent said they consulted a doctor or other health professional and the vast majority -- 65 percent -- said that interaction occurred offline.

Of the 54 percent who said they turned to a family or friend for support, 41 percent said the encounter happened away from the computer.

And although the use of social networking via sites like is on the rise, few people admitted to sharing intimate details about their health on them.

Eleven percent of social network site users, or five percent of adults, have posted comments, queries, or information about health or medical matters, it said.

Nine percent of social network site users, or four percent of adults, have started or joined a health related group on a social networking site.

"Social network sites are popular, but used only sparingly for health updates and queries," said the study.

Caregivers and people with chronic health woes were more likely than other social network users to use the medium for health causes.

Twenty-eight percent of caregivers and 20 percent of people with chronic conditions said they have gathered health information on such a site compared to 12 percent of other users.

Pew said the findings were similar to those reported in 2009.

Explore further: Clinton email policy violated Obama administration guidance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Facebook help a matter of timing

23 hours ago

Getting a response to a request for assistance on social media may have more to do with your request's timing than how many followers you have, research suggests.

Supreme Court allows challenge to Colorado Internet tax law

Mar 03, 2015

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal courts can hear a dispute over Colorado's Internet tax law. One justice suggested it was time to reconsider the ban on state collection of sales taxes from companies outside ...

Clinton ran own computer system for her official emails

Mar 03, 2015

The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails—on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state—traced back to an Internet ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.