More Patients Surfing the Web for Health Information

According to a recent Harris Poll, the number of people who use the Internet to look for information on health topics is continuing to increase.

Warning to all physicians: Cyberchondriacs are on the rise!

According to a recent Harris Poll, the number of Cyberchondriacs—people who use the Internet to look for information on health topics—is continuing to increase. The number has jumped from 154 million to 175 million in the past year alone, while the percentage of those who turn to the Web “often” for medical information increased from 22% to 32%.

One possible reason for the sharp increase is the debate over healthcare reform, it said.

Other findings from the poll—for which 1,066 adults were surveyed by phone in July, 2010—are as follows:

  • While the percentage of adults who go online (79%) has not changed significantly for several years, the proportion of those who are online and have ever used the Internet to look for health information has increased to 88% this year, the highest number ever.
  • Fully 81% of all Cyberchondriacs have looked for health information online in the last month. And 17% have gone online to look for health information ten or more times in the last month. On average, Cyberchondriacs do this about 6 times a month.
  • Very few Cyberchondriacs are dissatisfied with their ability to find what they want online. Only 9% report that they were somewhat (6%) or very (3%) unsuccessful. And only 8% believe that the information they found was unreliable.
  • Just over half (53%) of all Cyberchondriacs report that they have discussed information they found online with their doctors.
  • Half (51%) of all Cyberchondriacs say they have searched for information on the Internet based on discussions with their doctors.

The term “Cyberchondriacs” was coined by the Harris Poll in 1998, when just over 50 million American adults had ever gone online to look for health information. By 2005, that number had risen to 117 million.