10 Million Americans Seek Health Information Online on a Typical Day

Seven percent of internet users, or about 10 million American adults, searched for information on at least one health topic on a typical day in August 2006. This places health searches at about the same level of popularity on a typical day as paying bills online, reading blogs, or using the internet to look up a phone number or address, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project "Online Health Search 2006". 80% of American internet users, or some 113 million adults, have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. 

Health Topics Searched Online & Internet Users Who Have Searched for Information on It (%)

Health Topic 2002 2004 2006

Specific disease or medical problem

63%

66%

64%

Certain medical treatment or procedure

47

51

51

Diet, nutrition, vitamins, or nutritional supplements

44

51

49

Exercise or fitness

36

42

44

Prescription or over-the-counter drugs

34

40

37

A particular doctor or hospital

21

28

29

Health insurance

25

31

28

Alternative treatments or medicines

28

30

27

Depression, anxiety, stress, or mental health issues

21

23

22

Environmental health hazards

17

18

22

Experimental treatments or medicines

18

23

18

Immunizations or vaccinations

13

16

16

Dental health information

*

*

15

Medicare or Medicaid

9

11

13

Sexual health information

10

11

11

How to quit smoking

6

7

9

Problems with drugs or alcohol

8

8

8

* The question was not asked in the 2002 and 2004 Surveys.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project December 2002 Survey (N=1,220); November 2004 Survey (N=537); August 2006 Survey (N=1,990).

Other Key Findings from the  Pew Internet Project titled "Online Health Search 2006":

  • 66% of health seekers began their last online health inquiry at a search engine; 
  • 27% began at a health-related website.
  • 48% of health seekers say their quest for information was undertaken on behalf of someone else, not themselves. An additional 8% of health seekers say the search was on behalf of someone else and to answer their own health questions. 
  • 36% of health seekers say their last search was in relation to their own health or medical situation.
  • 53% of health seekers report that most recent health information session had some kind of impact on how they take care of themselves or care for someone else. 
  • 74% of health seekers say they felt reassured that they could make appropriate health care decisions after their last search. A majority of health seekers said they felt confident to raise new questions with their doctor, relieved or comforted by the information they found online, or eager to share their new knowledge with others. 
  • 25% of health seekers say they felt overwhelmed by the amount of information they found online during their last search. Similarly small groups of health seekers say they felt frustrated by the lack of information, confused by the information, or frightened by the serious or graphic nature of what they found online during their last health-related query.

Search engines are the first stop for two-thirds of internet users with a health question. One new item joined the list of health topics this year: 15% of internet users, or about 21 million adults, have looked online for information about dental health.

In addition, internet users who have seen a doctor in the past year are more likely than those who have not to have looked online for health information (84% vs. 66%). Internet users with health insurance are no more or less likely than those who do not have health insurance to get health information online. Using the internet to gather. 

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