Searching the Internet to find health information is as common as catching a cold, it seems. This year, 80% of online US adults, or 136 million people, will turn to the Internet to research symptoms, conditions and diagnoses, according to a Harris Poll conducted by telephone between July 5 and 11, 2006. That’s a solid increase from last year’s 72% of online adults, or 117 million people, who said they went online for health and medical information.


The 1,020 respondents, dubbed "cyberchondriacs" by Harris, went online fairly often to research health topics. In this year’s poll, 61% said they "often" or "sometimes" used the mouse to seek medical advice, compared to 58% who said the same in 2005, and just 42% in 1998.

In one month, 14% of online adults said they had looked for health information 10 or more times – although that is down slightly from last year, when nearly one in five (19%) conducted that many searches.

Searches were fruitful: 88% of respondents this year said they were "very" or "somewhat" successful in finding what they wanted to know, compared to 89% of respondents last year. However, they were a little less sure they could rely on what they found. In 2006, 87% said the information they discovered was "very" or "somewhat" reliable, compared to 90% who thought the same in 2005. The percentage of those who thought online information was "very reliable" dropped substantially, however, from 37% in 2005 to just 25% this year.