Report Finds 35% of U.S. Adults Go Online for Medical Diagnoses
More than one-third of U.S. adults have gone online to diagnose medical conditions for themselves or others, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, the New York Times' "Well" reports (Tavernise, "Well," New York Times, 1/15).
About the Report
The California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline, provided support for the report (Paddock, Medical News Today, 1/15).
For the report, researchers surveyed 3,014 U.S. adults by telephone in August and September of last year.
Researchers found that 35% of U.S. adults said they had used the Internet to search for a medical diagnosis ("Well," New York Times, 1/15). Of those individuals:
- 41% said that a clinician confirmed their findings;
- 35% said that they did not seek a clinician's professional opinion;
- 18% said that a clinician either disagreed with their findings or offered a different opinion about the condition;
- 2% said that a clinician partially confirmed their findings; and
- 1% said that their conversation with a clinician was inconclusive (Pew report, 1/15).
According to the report, individuals who are more likely to look up diagnoses online are:
- Younger individuals;
- White adults;
- College graduates; and
- Those with annual household incomes higher than $75,000 ("Well," New York Times, 1/15).
Of the U.S. adults who search for health information online:
- 77% said they started at a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo;
- 13% said they started at a health information website such as WebMD;
- 2% said they started at a general website like Wikipedia; and
- 1% said they started at a social networking website like Facebook (Pew report, 1/15).
About 26% of U.S. adults who searched for health information online reported encountering a paywall. Of those:
- 83% tried to find the information elsewhere;
- 13% gave up looking for medical information; and
- 2% paid to gain access to the information.
Comments on Trend
Susannah Fox -- associate director of Pew's Internet and American Life Project and author of the report -- said that the Internet often serves as a "de facto second opinion" on medical issues (Dolan, MobiHealthNews, 1/15).
Rahul Parikh, a pediatrician in California, said that people who go online for medical advice run the risk of finding inaccurate information. However, Parikh said, "I would encourage people to search more, rather than less," and to consult a doctor about the information they find (Painter, USA Today, 1/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.