May 17, 2005

More internet users do “health homework” online

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2005 – Eight in ten internet users have looked online for information on at least one of 16 health topics, with increased interest in diet, fitness, drugs, health insurance, experimental treatments, and particular doctors and hospitals. That translates to about 95 million American adults (18+) who use the internet to find health information. Some demographic groups showed notable interest in specific topics – 59% of online women have read up on nutrition information online, for example, compared with 43% of online men. Thirty-eight percent of online parents have checked online for health insurance information, compared with 26% of internet users who do not have children living at home. Forty-one percent of internet users with a broadband connection at home have looked up a particular doctor or hospital, compared with 19% of internet users with a dial-up connection at home. “Half of all American adults are now using the internet to gather advice about health and health care,” said Susannah Fox, Associate Director at the Pew Internet Project. “Some people, especially those with high-speed internet access and many years of online experience, are also changing the contours of health searching. Several years ago the usual internet health search was for someone in real medical need such as an outbreak of worrisome symptoms or a new medical diagnosis. These days, experienced internet users and those with broadband connections are just as likely to be looking up information about how to stay well, which doctors have the best surgical record, or what insurance pricing options are available. The internet’s power users now look up every-day questions and do their health homework online.” The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit initiative of the Pew Research Center and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to examine the social impact of the internet. It does not advocate policy outcomes.