“Cyberchondriacs” on the Rise?

New York, N.Y. – August 4, 2010 – The latest Harris Poll, measuring how many people use the Internet to look for information about health topics, finds that the numbers continue to increase. The Harris Poll first used the word Cyberchondriacs to describe these people in 1998, when just over 50 million American adults had ever gone online to look for health information. By 2005, that number had risen to 117 million. In the new poll, the number of Cyberchondriacs has jumped to 175 million from 154 million last year, possibly as a result of the health care reform debate. Furthermore, frequency of usage has also increased. Fully 32% of all adults who are online say they look for health information often, compared to 22% last year.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,066 adults surveyed by telephone between July 13 and 18, 2010.

Other findings in the new Harris Poll include:

  • While the percentage of adults who go online (79%) has not changed significantly for several years, the proportion of those who are online and have ever used the Internet to look for health information has increased to 88% this year the highest number ever.
  • Fully 81% of all Cyberchondriacs have looked for health information online in the last month. And 17% have gone online to look for health information ten or more times in the last month. On average, Cyberchondriacs do this about 6 times a month.
  • Very few Cyberchondriacs are dissatisfied with their ability to find what they want online. Only 9% report that they were somewhat (6%) or very (3%) unsuccessful. And only 8% believe that the information they found was unreliable.
  • Just over half (53%) of all Cyberchondriacs report that they have discussed information they found online with their doctors.
  • Half (51%) of all Cyberchondriacs say they have searched for information on the Internet based on discussions with their doctors.

So what?

These findings show that, with every passing year, more and more people are using the Internet to look for health information and that the overwhelming majority of these Cyberchondriacs are finding what they want online.

 

TABLE 1

CYBERCHONDRIACS: TRENDS 1998-2010

Base: All U.S. adults

1998

1999

2001

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

All adults who are online

38

46

63

67

69

74

77

79

76

79

79

All online adults who have ever looked online for health information

71

74

75

78

74

72

80

84

81

78

88

All adults who have ever looked online for health information

27

34

47

52

51

53

61

71

66

67

76

All adults who have looked online for health information in last month

NA

NA

27

NA

31

45

51

53

50

52

62

All adults who have ever looked online for health information

+ (millions)

54

69

97

109

111

117

136

160

150

154

175

Includes those online from home, office, school, library or other location

+ Based on July 2008 U.S. Census estimate released January 2009 (230,100,000 total U.S. adults aged 18 or over).

NA = Not Asked

 

TABLE 2

FREQUENCY OF ACCESSING HEALTH INFORMATION ONLINE: 1998-2010

How often do you look for information online about health topics – often, sometimes, hardly ever or never?

Base: All U.S. adults who are online

1998

1999

2001

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Often

12

13

16

17

19

25

21

26

25

22

32

Sometimes

30

30

30

37

31

33

40

40

38

35

41

Hardly ever

29

31

30

23

24

14

19

18

17

21

15

Never

29

26

25

22

26

29

20

16

19

22

11

Total who have looked for health or medical information sometimes or often (NET)

42

43

46

54

50

58

61

66

64

57

73

Total who have ever looked for health or medical information (NET)

71

74

75

78

74

72

80

84

81

78

88

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

Includes those online from home, office, school, library or other location

 

TABLE 3

FREQUENCY OF LOOKING FOR HEALTH INFORMATION IN LAST MONTH: 2001-2010

About how many times have you looked for information online about health topics in the last month?

Base: Have ever looked for health information online

2001

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Not once

40

NA

21

14

23

26

25

22

17

1 or more (NET)

58

NA

60

85

76

74

75

77

81

1 or 2 times

29

NA

26

31

35

30

31

33

33

3 – 5 times

17

NA

14

29

23

21

25

21

26

6 – 9 times

3

NA

5

6

5

8

5

6

6

10 or more times

9

NA

15

19

14

16

14

18

17

Not sure

2

NA

19

1

1

 

 

1

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mean (average)

3.0

NA

5.1

6.8

5.2

5.7

4.8

5.4

6.0

Median

1.1

NA

2.0

3.0

2

2

2

2

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

NA = Not asked in 2003

 

TABLE 4

Success in Searching for Information Online about Health Topics: 2005-2010

How successful were you in your search for information online about health topics? Were you…?

Base: Have ever looked for health information online

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

SUCCESSFUL (NET)

89

88

88

89

83

86

Very successful

46

42

37

41

45

41

Somewhat successful

43

46

50

48

38

45

Neither successful nor unsuccessful

2

4

5

3

5

4

UNSUCCESSFUL (NET)

6

7

6

4

9

9

Somewhat unsuccessful

3

4

3

2

4

6

Very unsuccessful

3

3

3

2

4

3

Not sure/Decline to answer

3

1

1

4

4

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 5

Reliability of Searching for Information Online about Health Topics: 2005-2010

How reliable do you believe this information is concerning health topics? Is it…?

Base: Have ever looked for health information online

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

RELIABLE (NET)

90

87

86

86

87

85

Very reliable

37

25

26

24

28

23

Somewhat reliable

53

61

60

62

59

62

Neither reliable nor unreliable

4

7

6

5

4

5

UNRELIABLE (NET )

5

5

7

6

7

8

Somewhat unreliable

3

5

6

4

4

5

Very unreliable

2

1

1

2

3

2

Not sure/Decline to answer

1

2

1

3

2

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 6

Discussion with Doctor About Information Found Online: 2005-2010

In the past year, have you ever discussed with your doctor the information you found online?

Base: Have ever looked for health information online

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes (NET)

57

52

58

47

44

53

Yes, always do

15

13

12

13

7

14

Yes, sometimes do

25

21

22

15

22

25

Yes, have done once or twice

18

19

24

19

15

15

No, never do

43

48

42

53

56

46

Not sure/Decline to answer

*

*

*

*

*

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

* Less than 0.5 percent.

 

TABLE 7

Frequency of Searching Medical Information Online Based on

Discussion with Doctor: 2005-2010

Have you ever searched for medical information on the Internet based on a discussion with your doctor?

Base: Have ever looked for health information online

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes (NET)

52

45

55

49

49

51

Yes, often

17

14

17

12

14

17

Yes, sometimes

36

31

38

38

35

35

No, never

48

55

45

50

51

49

Not sure/Decline to answer

*

*

*

*

*

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

* Less than 0.5 percent.

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between July 13 and 18, 2010 among 1,066 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, number of phone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J38512

Q705, 710, 715, 720, 725, 730

The Harris Poll® #95, August 4, 2010

By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman The Harris Poll