More Americans Seeking Health Information, Especially on the Internet

In 2007, 56 percent of American adults—more than 122 million people—sought information about a personal health concern, up from 38 percent in 2001, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Use of all information sources rose substantially, with the Internet leading the way: Internet information seeking doubled to 32 percent during the six-year period. Consumers across all categories of age, education, income, race/ethnicity and health status increased their information seeking significantly, but education level remained the key factor in explaining how likely people are to seek health information. Although elderly Americans—65 and older—sharply increased their information seeking, they still trail younger Americans by a substantial margin, especially in using Internet information sources. Consumers who actively researched health concerns widely reported positive impacts: More than half said the information changed their overall approach to maintaining their health, and four in five said that the information helped them to better understand how to treat an illness or condition.

The survey asked adults whether, during the past 12 months, they had looked for or obtained information about a personal health concern from a variety of sources other than their doctor, including books, magazines or newspapers; television or radio; friends or relatives; and the Internet. (SOURCES: The Center for Studying Health System Change HSC Alert, http://hschange.org , August 21, 2008; AHA News Now , http://ahanews.com , August 21, 2008)