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Pew-Online-Health-and-Medical-Information-Search-Jan201372% of US internet users said they have looked online for health information in the past 12 months, mostly to search for a specific disease or medical problem (55%) or a certain medical treatment or procedure (43%), according to [pdf] results from a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey. Among these online health-seekers (who represent an estimated 59% of the total US population), 77% started at a search engine the last time they went online to look for health information, while 13% went to a site that specializes in health information.

Which are the most popular specialized sites? In December 2012, WebMD led with 9.6% market share of all US visits, according to monthly Compete data tracked by MarketingCharts. Yahoo! Health was next, with 9% share of visits.

The Pew report contains a series of findings on online health information seekers. Some of the more notable results are listed below.

  • 35% of American adults have gone online at some time to try and diagnose a medical condition. Among these adults, 46% said the information they found online led them to believe they needed to consult a medical professional, and 41% said a medical professional confirmed their diagnosis.
  • The population segments most likely to try and diagnose a condition online are women, younger people, white adults, those living in households earning $75,000 or more, and those with a college or advanced degree.
  • 26% of internet users who went online to try and find health information hit a paywall, and just 2% of those paid, while 83% tried to find the information elsewhere.
  • Insured internet users are 27% more likely than uninsured internet users to have gone online for health information (75% vs. 59%).
  • 31% of cell phone owners have used their mobile devices to look up health or medical information online. The 18-29 (42%) and 30-49 (39%) age groups are most likely to have done so.

About the Data: The Pew results come from a nationwide survey of 3,014 adults living in the United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (1,808) and cell phone (1,206, including 624 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were done in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from August 7 to September 6, 2012. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±2.4 percentage points.

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