Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project,  presented this wonderful overview of the Project’s health findings at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, CA, on January 12.

Another summary of the Project’s health research is the following tip sheet, compiled by yours truly. I plan to keep it updated, so bookmark Pew Internet: Health on pewinternet.org.

Internet access:

78% of U.S. adults use the internet (May 2011 survey). For more, see: Who’s Online.

83% of U.S. adults own a cell phone (May 2011 survey). For more, see: Gadget Ownership and Pew Internet: Mobile.

Online health information search:

80% of internet users, or 59% of U.S. adults, look online for health information.

17% of cell phone owners, or 15% of adults, have used their phone to look up health or medical information.

  • This finding is of particular interest to those interested in trends related to young people, Latinos, and African Americans, since these groups are significantly more likely than other groups to have mobile internet access. For more, see: Technology Trends Among People of Color and Mobile Health 2010.

The most commonly-researched topics are specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals. For more, see: summary charts of health topics.

Also, keep in mind that the typical search for health information is on behalf of someone else — information access by proxy.

Peer-to-peer healthcare:

Pew Internet is tracking overall trends in how the internet is changing people’s relationships with health information and with each other.

“I don’t know, but I can try to find out” is the default setting for people with health questions.

  • 34% of internet users, or 25% of U.S. adults, have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, or blog.
  • 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. People living with chronic and rare conditions are significantly more likely to do this. See: Peer-to-peer Healthcare.

“I know, and I want to share my knowledge” is the leading edge of health care.

  • 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.

For more, see The Social Life of Health Information, 2011 and Medicine 2.0: Peer-to-peer Healthcare.

As always, I would love to hear from people about what’s missing or what they wish we’d study. I welcome comments (below), tweets (@SusannahFox), and emails (sfox at pewinternet dot org).

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