December 14, 2003

Wired for Health: How Californians Compare

The California HealthCare Foundation engaged the Pew Internet & American Life Project to take a closer look at how Californians use the Internet to research health information, particularly Latino Internet users and low-income Internet users.

Low-income Californians are more likely than other low-income Americans to go online and to search for health information.1

  • 45% of Californians living in households with annual incomes of less than $30,000 report having access to the Internet, compared to 36% of those living in low-income households outside California (those living in the 47 other continental states).
  • 84% of low-income Californian Internet users have searched online for at least one health topic, compared to 77% of low-income non-Californian Internet users.
  • 66% of low-income California Internet users report that the Internet has improved the health and medical information and services they receive. This is not quite as high as the 76% of higher-income Internet users who report benefits from going online, but it nevertheless represents a striking endorsement of the way that online searches help those with medical issues.
  • By contrast, 77% of Californians (and 74% of non-Californians) living in households with more than $30,000 annual income have Internet access. 83% of higher-income Californian Internet users and 84% of higher-income non-Californian Internet users have searched for health information online.

Latino Californians search online for health information, especially if they speak English.

  • 58% of California’s English-speaking Latinos have access to the Internet, compared to 63% of all Californians.
  • 78% of English-speaking Californian Latino Internet users have researched at least one health topic online, which is just below the average for all Californian Internet users (83%).
  • 74% of California’s Latino Internet users in our survey report that the Internet has improved the health and medical information and services they receive.
  • However, the Center for Studying Health System Change has found that, for the U.S. as a whole, Spanish-speaking Latinos were about half as likely as their English-speaking counterparts to have looked for health information online.2

Health insurance, alternative medicine, and experimental treatments are more popular topics among Californian Internet users than other online Americans.

  • 31% of online Californians have searched the Internet for information about health insurance, compared to 24% of the rest of the country’s Internet users.
  • 33% of online Californians have searched for alternative treatments, compared to 27% of the rest of the country’s Internet users.
  • 23% of online Californians have searched for experimental medical treatments, compared to 17% of the rest of the country’s Internet users.
California: Summary of Findings at a Glance
  1. This Pew Internet & American Life Project report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the Internet and an online survey about Internet health resources. All numerical data was gathered through telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates between November 25 and December 22, 2002, among a sample of 2,038 adults, aged 18 and older. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is +/- 2%. For results based on California residents (n=663) the margin of sampling error is +/- 4%.
  2. Center for Studying Health System Change: Latino Consumers’ Information Seeking and Information Sharing with Doctors, Unadjusted and Adjusted Means (September 2003). Available at: http://www.hschange.com/CONTENT/537/?supp=3