The clicking of mouse buttons fills the air when people need health information, but a new survey by the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation that asked adults which information-gathering means they had used found that books and other print resources are nearly as popular as the Internet. Even more often, people turn to other people:
- 86 percent had asked a doctor or other health professional.
- 68 percent had asked a friend or family member.
- 57 percent had gone to the Internet.
- 54 percent had consulted books or other print material.
More than twice as many Americans went online for health information than in 2000. But the surprise is that the Web is rarely the only resource. Most people use online research to supplement, not replace, advice delivered by a health professional—and by family and friends. "Don't count out Doctor Mom," says Pew Associate Director Susannah Fox, who wrote the June report.
But sharing personal health information online hasn't caught on. While 41 percent of those polled said they had read about other people's experiences on an online newsgroup, website, or blog, just 6 percent had posted comments, queries, or research. When it comes to health information, seemingly we're still mostly a nation of lurkers.
Not surprisingly, those whose age puts them closer to the Facebook generation are more into sharing personal experiences. Half of the surveyed individuals younger than 50 had read someone else's story, compared with one third of those 50 and older. Age, in fact, was the only real divide; women, men, and people of all ethnic groups were just as apt to share—or not to.