Feeling under the weather? You’ve probably looked up your symptoms on the Internet and self-diagnosed your ailment, according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.
The survey found that 72 percent of U.S adults with Internet access looked online for health information in 2012. Of 35 percent of American adults who have used the Web to gauge their medical condition, 46 percent said their search led them to consult a medical professional. Women are more likely than men to check the Web for medical diagnoses, as are younger people, and individuals with post-secondary education.
“Many have now added the Internet to their personal health toolbox, helping themselves and their loved ones better understand what might be ailing them,” Susannah Fox and Maeve Duggan wrote.
Nearly 80 percent of online health inquiries began on a major search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo, while 13 percent began on a site specialized for medical information such as WebMD or Mayo Clinic. Two percent of searches were on general information websites, and 1 percent was through social media.
“Consulting online reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments, however, took a noticeable dip in the last two years,” the authors added.
The researchers said many consumers are willing to write reviews for general products or services –such as a purchase on Amazon.com – but they’re less likely to have written a review of their medical treatments. Only 3 to 4 percent of Internet users write such reviews, according to Fox and Duggan.
Even with the Internet, the authors noted that offline interaction with clinicians and other health care professionals were important components for everyday medical care.
“And, since a majority of adults consult the Internet when they have health questions, these communications with clinicians, family, and fellow patients joined the stream of information flowing in,” Fox and Duggan wrote.