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Chronic Conditions and Online Information Seeking

According to The Diagnosis Difference, a new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “many people with serious health concerns take their health decisions seriously—and are seriously social about gathering and sharing information, both online and offline.” While the report shows that adults with chronic conditions are often less likely to be online, the report also shows that when adults with chronic conditions do go online they engage in social networks and health outlets to gather and share health information.

According to the report “internet users living with one or more conditions are more likely than other online adults to:

  • Gather information online about medical problems, treatments, and drugs.
  • Consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments.
  • Read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.”

Libraries can have an impact for online health seekers. According to the report “30% of online health information seekers living with chronic conditions were asked to pay for something they wanted to access online.” When met with a pay wall, only 2% reported paying the fee to access full content. 17% gave up trying to access the content. The remaining information seekers attempted to find the same information elsewhere for free.

While adults with chronic conditions are gathering health information online, they are also more likely than others to talk with a clinician about what they find. For adults with chronic conditions, clinicians are the central source of information, but support groups, friends, and family also play an important role. According to the report “having a chronic condition significantly increases the likelihood someone got information or support from a doctor or health care professional, friends or family, or others with the same health condition.”

The report also demonstrates that individuals living with chronic conditions are “significantly more likely than other adults to track weight, diet, exercise, or health indicators like blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep patterns, or headaches.”

Adults living with chronic conditions who take their illness seriously are able to research and share information through online and face-to-face methods. This group has different health information seeking behaviors which set them apart from others. The video provides an brief summary of the report findings.

 

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