Americans Turn to the Internet for Health Information Nearly as Often as They Turn to Doctors, Says Survey

Seventy percent of adults are now turning to the Internet as one of their primary resources for medical and health information.

by / August 15, 2007

Ask.com, yesterday released the findings from a 2007 Consumer Medical and Health Information poll, commissioned by Ask.com and conducted by Harris Interactive. The study demonstrates that adults now rely on the Internet as a primary source of health-related information nearly as much as they rely on their primary doctors. Seventy percent of adults are now turning to the Internet as one of their primary resources for medical and health information, surpassed only slightly by their personal physician (72 percent). Results also cited the Internet as a far more popular resource for health information than traditional media outlets such as newspapers/magazines (30 percent), television (26 percent) and books (25 percent) -- even surpassing friends and family (40 percent) as a source to find the medical information people seek.

Additional findings from the Harris survey include:

  • Knowledge is Power: It's all about being informed. 73 percent of adults expressed a desire to be more informed about their personal health, as well as the well-being of friends and family. Even those born well before the Internet generation (ages 55+) feel the medium has helped them diagnose and better understand their condition (76 percent).
  • That's What Friends are For: Two-thirds of Americans search to help them diagnose or better understand a condition (71 percent), and more than half of adults reporting doing the same for friends and family members (55 percent).
  • For Your Eyes Only: Adults aged 18-34 are still embarrassed when it comes to sharing personal health information, and 21 percent noted they turned to the Internet for privacy, stating that they were just too embarrassed to talk to anyone about their medical or health issues.
  • What's the Alternative: Nearly 30 percent of adults (28 percent) reported leveraging the Internet to find alternative (e.g., homeopathic) treatment options.

This survey was conducted online within the United States between July 5 and July 9, 2007 among 3,389 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for region, age within gender, education, household income and race/ethnicity were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. The data was also weighted to be representative of the online population of U.S. adults on the basis of Internet usage (hours per week) and connection type.