December 4, 2020

New Report: "The Social Life of Health Information, 2011"

The report is a collaboration between the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.  It was written by Susannah Fox from Pew Internet and is now available online.

Summary of Findings:

The survey finds that, of the 74% of adults who use the internet:

  • 80% of internet users have looked online for information about any of 15 health topics such as a specific disease or treatment. This translates to 59% of all adults.
  • 34% of internet users, or 25% of adults, have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, or blog.
  • 25% of internet users, or 19% of adults, have watched an online video about health or medical issues.
  • 24% of internet users, or 18% of adults, have consulted online reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments.
  • 18% of internet users, or 13% of adults, have gone online to find others who might have health concerns similar to theirs.
  • 16% of internet users, or 12% of adults, have consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors or other providers.
  • 15% of internet users, or 11% of adults, have consulted online rankings or reviews of hospitals or other medical facilities.

Of those who use social network sites (62% of adult internet users, or 46% of all adults):

  • 23% of social network site users, or 11% of adults, have followed their friends’ personal health experiences or updates on the site.
  • 17% of social network site users, or 8% of adults, have used social networking sites to remember or memorialize other people who suffered from a certain health condition.
  • 15% of social network site users, or 7% of adults, have gotten any health information on the sites.

Of adults who use the internet:

  • 27% of internet users, or 20% of adults, have tracked their weight, diet, exercise routine or some other health indicators or symptoms online.
  • 6% of internet users, or 4% of adults, have posted comments, questions or information about health or medical issues on a website of any kind, such as a health site or news site that allows comments and discussion.
  • 4% of internet users, or 3% of adults, have posted their experiences with a particular drug or medical treatment.
  • 4% of internet users, or 3% of adults, have posted a review online of a doctor.
  • 3% of internet users, or 2% of adults, have posted a review online of a hospital.

Of adults who use social network sites:

  • 14% of social network site users, or 6% of adults, have raised money for or drawn attention to a health-related issue or cause.
  • 11% of social network site users, or 5% of adults, have posted comments, queries, or information about health or medical matters.
  • 9% of social network site users, or 4% of adults, have started or joined a health-related group on a social networking site.

The social life of health information is robust. The online conversation about health is being driven forward by two forces:  1) the availability of social tools and 2) the motivation, especially among people living with chronic conditions, to connect with each other.

We’re trying to find out if we can learn anything from Pew Internet about how (or if) users judge credibility, currency, accuracy of the info available and those who provide it. What do they do to verify its accuracy? Did any of those surveyed use any other tools besides open web resources? Which resources get high marks for credibilty/accuarcy? Are there any sites that a large number of people stay away from? How long does the search process take, in other words when do users either give up or become satisfied with what they found? Search query length?

Fully 44% of caregivers report that online health resources have been helpful.

Did users discuss unhelpful resources and experiences?

See Also:

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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