Health Issues Drive Online Connections

    February 28, 2011

Nearly 20 percent (18%) of U.S. Internet users have gone online to find others with similar health issues, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The number increases to 23 percent among Internet users who are living with a chronic disease.




Still, people overwhelmingly report that health professionals are central for healthcare information. When asked about the last time they had a health issue:

  *70% of adults in the U.S. say they received information, care, or support from a health professional.

*54% of adults say they turned to friends and family.

*20% of adults say they turned to others who have the same health condition.

“The Pew Internet Project’s consistent finding – in politics, commerce, health care, and other sectors – is that the internet provides people access not only to information, but also to other people who share their interests,” says Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew Internet Project and author of the report.

“Rare-disease patients’ dispatches from the edge of medicine show an intensified form of networking among patients and caregivers. They search, they network, and, most importantly, they rely on our doctors as guides.”

The report shows shows that most health care conversations occur offline, but when a condition is rare, the internet is a lifeline since it can enable connections across distances and among people who may never have met in person.