The US is becoming a nation of ‘cyberchondriacs’, with a surge in the number of individuals searching the internet for health care information in the past year after three years of little growth. According to new research from Harris Interactive, use of the web to search for health-related information by online US adults has increased markedly both in terms of percentages (from 72 per cent in 2005 to 80 per cent currently), and in numbers.
This brings the number of all US adults who have ever searched for health information online to 136 million, a 16 per cent increase from 117 million in 2005, Harris found.
The percentage of cyberchondriacs who search online either 'often' or 'sometimes' also appears to be rising modestly. Most adults who have ever looked for health information online claim that they have been generally successful in their searches. In addition, many believe the information to be at least 'somewhat reliable' though the percentage who think the information is 'very reliable' has declined. Somewhat fewer adults say that they are talking to their physicians about the information from the internet.
The results are based on a Harris Poll of 1,020 US adults surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive between July 5 and 11, 2006.
The survey noted that cyberchondriacs are not only using the internet to better educate themselves, but many are also using it to assist in their discussions with their doctors.
However, these discussions are taking place in fewer numbers. By 52 to 48 per cent, a slight majority of adults who have gone online to get health information say that they have discussed this information with their doctor at least once. This is down from 2005 when a 57 to 43 per cent majority indicated this.
Furthermore, fewer than half (45 per cent) of cyberchondriacs have searched for health information based on a discussion with their doctor. This is a decrease of seven percentage points from last year's 52 per cent.
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