More of us are heading to web for health information

5 Aug 2010

The number of internet users surfing the web for health-related information has risen sharply in the last year, says US marketing firm Harris Interactive, whose poll found that 32pc of all online adults seek out these resources.

Although the poll looks at a US sample only, it does a good job of breaking down how this information is accessed and other associated trends.

The percentage of online adults who have looked online for health information has increased from 71pc in 1998 to 88pc in 2010, showing a jump of 10pc in the last year alone.

Meanwhile, the number of adults who have looked for health information in the last month is at 62pc in comparison to 52pc in 2009.

In numbers, this has risen from 54 million adults online in 1998 looking for health information in comparison to 175 million in 2010, but of course this large rise is due in part to the fact that more adults are online than ever before.

While Harris Interactive refers to those who surf the web for medical or health-related information as “cyberchondriacs”, this is not exactly correct as the portmanteau derives from hypochondriasis, which is a morbid obsession with imaginary physical ailments whereas the adults surveyed in the poll merely admitted to looking online for health information.

A breakdown of how those polled have accessed and treated this online health information shows that a minority of 17pc of those who do surf for health-related resources have looked for this 10 times or more within the past month.

Half (51pc) of all “cyberchondriacs” say they have searched for health information online based on conversations they have previously had with their doctors.

The Harris Poll was compiled as the result of a telephone survey of 1,066 adults between 13 and 18 July 2010.