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Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2006 Jun;54(3):263-75.

Internet uses for health information seeking: A literature review.

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Inserm U 707, Equipe de recherche sur les déterminants sociaux de la santé et du recours aux soins, 75012 Paris.



With the widespread dissemination of the Internet throughout the world of health, it would be relevant to report on current knowledge about health information search on the Internet from the consumers' standpoint.


We conducted a bibliographical research over the past five years and distinguished between international and French studies.


For a long time, the (mostly US) studies have been merely descriptive. The studies highlight that the factors associated with health searches on the Internet are similar to the factors underlying the digital divide. Consumer searches are deemed efficient although search skills are comparatively below standard. Attempts are underway to set up tools, circulate them widely, and ensure better quality information on the Internet. However, comprehension and literacy are still issues in some social groups. Regarding the impact on consumer health per se, a (positive) effect of the Internet seems to emerge but research should be continued.


Many of the behaviors, uses or limits addressed in this paper pertain to any information search on the Internet but other problems or differences also occur in the specific area of health. Longitudinal investigations are needed, specifically to gain deeper insight into the impacts we have addressed, while rolling out a comprehensive approach to the temporal evolution of user practices and experiences. Specifically, the central issue is still to determine how (and for whom) the Internet alters information search behaviors and, in fine, to what extent this affects health behaviors and the recourse to healthcare.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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