Thirty-Five Percent of Americans Consult Internet For Health Information

Every  morning before I get out of bed, I look at all the headlines on my news widget. The last section I usually look at is the health news. Today, a headline caught my attention — it said something about thirty-five percent of American adults consult “Dr. Google” to diagnose illness. This definitely sounded like something up my alley, so I read it, and wanted to share the information here.

I couldn’t find the article that I originally read, but this one from provided the same information. Just today, findings from The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project were published. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

  • 59 percent of adults using the Internet have looked online for health info in the past year
  • 35 percent have sought out information online, specifically trying to diagnose theirs, or someone elses’, medical condition
  • After apparently finding out what their condition was online, 46 percent felt they should seek help from a health provider, 38 percent felt they could treat it at home, and 11 percent said it was in between.
  • 41 percent had a doctor confirm the condition, thirty five percent didn’t consult a physician, and 18 percent were corrected by their physician on what the condition was.

I thought this was all pretty interesting. The study also found that women are more likely to look information up online about health. That sounds about right to me — I don’t think my husband has EVER looked up something about a medical condition online, while I probably do every other day.

I think the fact that almost half of those that looked up information were able to have the condition they “diagnosed” themselves with confirmed with a physician shows how information found online is getting better. The authors did say this though, about these findings:

It is important to note what these findings mean — and what they don’t mean. Historically, people have always tried to answer their health questions at home and made personal choices about whether and when to consult a clinician. Many have now added the internet to their personal health toolbox, helping themselves and their loved ones better understand what might be ailing them. This study was not designed to determine whether the internet has had a good or bad influence on health care. It measures the scope, but not the outcome, of this activity.

What I think this study does show, however, is that it’s now more important than ever to make sure there’s good, reliable information out there for people to consult. A decent percentage of the people surveyed didn’t seek medical attention after their self-diagnosis, and it would be unfortunate if someone got incorrect information and really did need to see a doctor.

If anything, I’m just happy to see that there are others who consult Dr. Google as much as I do!