Health-related websites have the potential to powerfully influence the attitudes and behavior of consumers. Access to reliable disease information online has been linked to reduced anxiety, increased feelings of self-efficacy, and decreases in utilization of ambulatory care. Studies report that Internet health information seekers are more likely to have health concerns; adult seekers are more likely to rate themselves as having poor health status and adolescent seekers are more likely to demonstrate clinical impairment or depressive symptomatology compared to non-seekers. Although more and more Americans are using the Internet for healthcare information, little is known about how this information affects their health behaviors. The current study extends the literature by examining characteristics associated with help seeking, either from a healthcare provider or from peers, as a direct result of health information found online. Medical care seekers appear to be using the Internet to enhance their medical care; they report using the information online to diagnose a problem and feel more comfortable about their health provider’s advice given the information found on the Internet. Support seekers tend to be of slightly lower income compared to non-support seekers. They are also significantly more likely to have searched for information about a loved one’s medical or health condition, signaling that many of these consumers may be caretakers.
Ybarra, Michele L., and Michael Suman. “Help seeking behavior and the Internet: a national survey.” International Journal of Medical Informatics 75, no. 1 (January 2006): 29-41.