Pew Report Says Consumers Turning to Internet to Track Their Health

A new report shows that increasing numbers of consumers are using the Internet to track medical information that they can apply to their own health. The report, “The Social Life of Health Information,” was issued by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

Among the highlights of the report, which reviewed telephone survey responses from 3,100 U.S. adults, are the following:

• Twenty-seven percent of adult Internet users (20 percent of all adults) use the Web to track symptoms, look at diets and weight discussions, and check out exercise routines.

• Overall, 24 percent of adult Internet users have consulted online reviews of drugs or medical treatments. That figure jumps to 38 percent if the persons involved are caregivers, compared to 18 percent for people who are not.

• The report characterizes the increasing use of cell phones, laptops, and tablets as showing “a pretty significant trend toward people going online.” According to Pew spokeswoman Susannah Fox, wireless users are particularly interested in location-oriented information, such as where to find the nearest clinic or healthcare resource. Mobile device users are also more likely to leave comments on health-oriented blogs.

• Only 15 percent of respondents (seven percent of adults overall) use social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace to access health information. They are more likely to use such media to informally track other people’s health or leave condolences for an injury or death than to find objective health information.

• Fox said that the survey found that even though older adults are the heaviest users of prescription drugs, they are less likely than younger adults to go online for information about drugs.

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