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Online Health Junkies, or 'Cyberchondriacs,' Include 160 Million Americans

The number of people who have used the internet to search for health-related information has increased from 53 percent in 2005 to 71 percent currently, bringing the number of US adults who have searched for health information online to 160 million, according to Harris Interactive.

That's an increase from 136 million "cyberchondriacs," as Harris terms them, in 2006 and 117 million in 2005 - a 37 percent increase over two years, writes MarketingCharts.

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The proportion of cyberchondriacs who search online either often or sometimes has also risen. Most adults who have ever looked for health information online claim that they have been at least somewhat successful in finding what they were looking for.

In addition, the great majority say they believe the information to be at least somewhat reliable, and most have talked to their physicians about the information they found on the internet.

Among the findings of the Harris survey:

  • The number of US adults who have ever gone online to look for health or medical information has increased to approximately 160 million up from about 136 million last year.
  • Cyberchondriacs now represent 84 percent of all online adults, up from last year's 80 percent, and 72 percent in 2005.
  • Two thirds (66 percent) of adults online say that they have looked for information about health topics often (26 percent) or sometimes (40 percent), an increase of five percentage points from 2006 (61 percent).

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  • The percentage of online adults who say they hardly ever or never search for health information has dropped to 34 percent, down from 39 percent last year and 43 percent in 2005.
  • While three-quarters (74 percent) of those who have ever searched the internet for health information have done so once or more often in the last month, that proportion is down from 2005, when 85 percent said that they had gone online one or more times in the past month looking for health information.
  • On average, a cyberchondriac searches the internet almost six (5.7) times per month.

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"The huge and growing numbers of 'cyberchondriacs' who use the internet to look for health information and to help them have better conversations with their doctors has surely had a big impact on the knowledge of patients, the questions they ask their doctors and is therefore changing the doctor-patient relationship and the practice of medicine," Harris said.

MarketingCharts offers some more data from the survey.

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