Health Information: Online Research Popular, Says Pew Survey

01/17/2013 08:14am ET
LONDON - MAY 10: In this photo illustration the homepage of the NHS is displayed on a computer screen on May 10, 2006 in London, England. (Photo Illustration by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

More than half of Americans have used the Internet to answer their health questions, according to the latest research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. But where are they looking?

While 59 percent of Americans have found health information online, a smaller but still substantial number -- 35 percent -- say they have logged online specifically to try to learn what a particular symptom meant. Luckily, the number of people who first approach a doctor for diagnosis, 70 percent of respondents, is twice the percentage of those who use online diagnostic tools, but the latter statistic is still rather high.

About 46 percent of those who went online reported subsequently going to a medical professional to confirm a diagnosis and for treatment, while 38 percent opted for self-care and stopped after their online search. Notably, those with more education and higher incomes were both more likely to use the Internet as a primary diagnostic tool. Perhaps the following statistic will be sobering for these DIYers: 18 percent of those who went to the doctor following a self-diagnosis were given a different diagnosis by the professionals.

Have you ever diagnosed using an online tool? Tell us in the comments!

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