Women's health and the internet: understanding emerging trends and implications

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Jan;56(1):179-91. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00019-9.


Internet has become a major information source, yet little is known about why women use the internet for obtaining health information. In this paper, we propose and test three exploratory models to explain internet use for obtaining health information: health and wellness model, health needs model, and search costs model. The health and wellness model is based on the notion that internet has become such an integral part of daily life that health-conscious women use the internet in a pro-active manner for health promotion. The health needs model posits that women with greater health needs or concerns are more likely to use the internet. Finally, the search costs model explores the idea that women may view the internet as a resource for reducing high information search costs. These models were tested using data collected through telephone surveys of women in three southern New Jersey counties in the USA. Consistent with expectations, our findings show that internet use to search for health information is greater among women with higher levels of income and education. There is support for all three models, with surprisingly strong support for the health and wellness model. We conclude that women increasingly rely on the internet to supplement health information received from traditional sources and discuss the implications of our findings for policymakers and health professions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Motivation
  • New Jersey
  • Women / psychology
  • Women's Health*