The Latest Internet Statistics: Health is a Top Search Subject

The latest Internet statistics are out and one thing is clear: People want to find health information online.

The statistics, from the Pew Internet study released last month, show that the web is likely the top choice — outside of a physician’s office — for finding medical information, sharing medical stories, reading about others’ experiences and tracking a personalized health program.

 Top 5 things people do the most online

  1. Send or read email.
  2. Use a search engine to find information.
  3. Look for health/medical info.
  4. Check the weather.
  5. Search for a service or product.

Top 5 things people do the least online

  1. Create or work on a personal online journal or blog.
  2. Use Twitter.
  3. Buy or sell stocks, bonds or mutual funds.
  4. Use a dating website.
  5. Visit virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Internet access

  • 78 percent of U.S. adults use the Internet (May 2011 survey).
  • 83 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone (May 2011 survey).

Online health information search

  • 80 percent of Internet users, or 59 percent of U.S. adults, look online for health information.
  • 17 percent of cell phone owners, or 15 percent of adults, have used their phone to look up health or medical information.

The most commonly-researched topics are specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals.

Peer-to-peer health care

  • 34 percent of Internet users, or 25 percent of U.S. adults, have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, or blog.
  • 24 percent of Internet users, or 18 percent of adults, have consulted online reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments.
  • 18 percent of Internet users, or 13 percent of adults, have gone online to find others who might have health concerns similar to theirs. People living with chronic and rare conditions are significantly more likely to do this.
  • 27 percent of Internet users, or 20 percent of adults, have tracked their weight, diet, exercise routine or some other health indicators or symptoms online.
  • 6 percent of Internet users, or 4 percent of adults, have posted comments, questions or information about health or medical issues on a website of any kind, such as a health site or news site that allows comments and discussion.
  • 4 percent of Internet users, or 3 percent of adults, have posted their experiences with a particular drug or medical treatment.

Some other notable findings

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  • 65 percent use social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook.
  • 32 percent read journals or blogs.
  • 21 percent download a podcast.

We know you have tons of health information just sitting in your newsletter and intranet archives. Our Social Media Starter Kit can guide you through the best ways to share this content and more year round. You’ll get 43 pages all about blogs, Twitter and other new media, plus over 50 tips and best practices to help you use these powerful tools.

Come see Jennifer Benz speak on 3 Steps to Success: How Benefits Can Help Drive Your Strategic HR Transformation at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

Jennifer Benz is Chief Strategist and Founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consultancy that focuses on custom, comprehensive benefits and HR communications services. Jen is an active member of the Council for Communication Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association and Women in Consulting. Contact her at