Poll Shows Rise in 'Cyberchondriacs'

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) — The debate about health care reform may be one reason why the number of “cyberchondriacs” in the United States increased from 154 million last year to 175 million this year, a new survey suggests.

The term “cyberchondriacs” refers to people who use the Internet to look for information about health topics, according to the Harris Poll telephone survey of 1,066 adults conducted between July 13 and July 18.

The survey also found that people who look for health-related subject matter on the Internet are doing so more frequently. This year, 32 percent of adults who are online said they search for health information “often,” compared to 22 percent last year.

Among the other findings:

  • The percentage of adults who go online (79 percent) hasn’t changed significantly for several years, but the proportion who are online and have ever used the Internet to seek health information increased to 88 percent this year, the highest ever.
  • Eighty-one percent of cyberchondriacs sought health information online in the past month, and 17 percent went online to look for health information 10 or more times in the last month. On average, cyberchondriacs do so about six times a month.
  • There’s a high level of satisfaction with the health information found online. Only 9 percent of cyberchondriacs said they were somewhat or very unsuccessful, and only 8 percent said they believe the information they found was unreliable.
  • About half (51 percent) of cyberchondriacs said they have searched for information on the Internet based on discussions with their doctors, and 53 percent said they have discussed information they found online with their doctors.

In 1998, the number of cyberchondriacs in the United States was just over 50 million adults. That number increased to 117 million by 2005.

More information

The Medical Library Association offers a guide to finding and evaluating online health information.