In addition to the impact felt by their last online health information search, 31% of health seekers say they or someone they know has been significantly helped by following medical advice or health information found on the internet. That translates to about 35 million adults who report knowing about a significantly positive effect. Just 3% of health seekers, or about 3 million adults, say they or someone they know has been seriously harmed by following the advice or information they found online.
These findings build on previous Pew Internet & American Life Project surveys which have found that the vast majority of health seekers say the benefits of online information outweigh the risks. In a February-March 2005 survey, we asked respondents first whether they had helped someone deal with a major illness or health condition within the past two years and, if they had, whether the internet played a crucial role, an important one, a minor role, or no role at all in this event. E-caregivers who said the internet played a crucial or important role were then asked if they got bad information or advice online that made their experience more difficult. Six percent of these respondents said yes; 91% of e-caregivers said that was not a problem for them.