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J Health Commun. 2010;15 Suppl 3:279-93. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2010.522700.

The Internet as a health information source: findings from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey and implications for health communication.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02111, USA.


A wealth of health information is available online, but we do not fully understand the implications for health communication. This study examined whether health information seekers who turn to the Internet first differ from those who turn elsewhere. Data from the 2,338 respondents to the mail portion of the National Cancer Institute's Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 2007 who reported looking for health information for themselves were analyzed. Logistic regression was used to examine whether health information seekers turning to the Internet first differed in terms of demographics, information preferences and seeking confidence, and communication with providers from those using other sources. In the final model, Internet users were younger, more educated, higher income, preferred numbers rather than words to describe chance, and think it is very important to get personal medical information electronically. There were no differences in terms of gender, health status, confidence seeking health information, or communication with providers. Health information seekers who turn to the Internet first are different, both in terms of demographics and information preferences. As the use of communication technologies increases, health communicators need to be attentive to the potential for communication inequalities.

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