The number of adults using the Internet to find health-related information leaped from 154 million in 2009 to 175 million this year, according to a Harris Interactive poll released today. It's the largest year-over-year increase since the poll began in 1998.
The new poll shows that 32% of adults say they regularly look online for health-related information compared with 22% last year.
According to the poll, the number of "cyberchondriacs," as Harris calls them, or those who regularly go online to search for health information, has increased more than three-fold from 50 million people in 1998, when Harris first conducted its survey. By 2005, the number of cyberchondriacs had risen to 117 million. In the new poll, Harris speculated that the more dramatic jump in users may be the result of the health care reform debate.
The telephone poll of 1,066 adults 18 years old or older was conducted between July 13 and July 18. The poll showed that the number of people who go online -- 79% -- has not changed significantly over the past several years, but the proportion of those who have used the Internet to look for health information increased to an all-time high of 88% this year. Eighty-one percent of cyberchondriacs indicated they went online over the past month for health information, and 17% said they've searched the Web 10 or more times in the last month.
Most of the cyberchondriacs also indicated they are very happy with their ability to find what they're looking for online. Only 9% said they were somewhat or very unsuccessful at finding what they needed. Eight percent said the information they found was unreliable.
More than half of the cyberchondriacs -- 53% -- said they used online health information in discussions with their doctors and about half also said they searched for information on the Internet based on discussions with physicians.
"These findings show that, with every passing year, more and more people are using the Internet to look for health information and that the overwhelming majority of these Cyberchondriacs are finding what they want online," Harris stated.