Out of roughly 81 percent of U.S. adults who say they use the Internet, 72 percent claim they have looked up health information online in the past year, according to new research published this week by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Of those, 59 percent say they have looked online specifically to figure out a medical condition for themselves or someone else; to that end, Pew labeled those patients--who make up 35 percent of all U.S. adults--"online diagnosers."
More than half (53 percent) of online diagnosers say they discussed their findings with a doctor, while 41 percent say their findings were confirmed by a clinician.
"Online health information is available day or night, at no cost, and the Internet has become a de facto second opinion for many people," lead author Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Project said in a statement. "The open search box invites people to begin their journey toward better health, but this study shows that the Internet is just one piece of the puzzle. Clinicians are still central."
For the study, 3,014 U.S. adults were surveyed between August and September 2012.
A similar study published last summer by researchers from the University of California, Davis found that of 500 people who researched health information online, 70 percent planned to ask their doctors questions about the information they found. Forty percent printed Web materials to bring to their medical visits, while 50 percent said they planned to make at least one request to their doctor based on their Web research.
Pew research published in November found that more than half (52 percent) of smartphone owners use their devices to look up health information.