Health attitudes, health cognitions, and health behaviors among Internet health information seekers: population-based survey

J Med Internet Res. 2004 May 28;6(2):e15. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6.2.e15.


Background: Using a functional theory of media use, this paper examines the process of health-information seeking in different domains of Internet use.

Objective: Based on an analysis of the 1999 HealthStyles data, this study was designed to demonstrate that people who gather information on the Internet are more health-oriented than non-users of Internet health information.

Methods: The Porter Novelli HealthStyles database, collected annually since 1995, is based on the results of nationally representative postal mail surveys. In 1999, 2636 respondents provided usable data for the HealthStyles database. Independent sample t-tests and logistic regression analyses were conducted.

Results: The results showed that individuals who searched for health information on the Internet were indeed more likely to be health-oriented than those who did not. Consumers who sought out medical information on the Internet reported higher levels of health-information orientation and healthy activities, as well as stronger health beliefs than those who did not search for medical news on the Internet. It was observed that those who reported searching for information about drugs and medications on the Internet held stronger health beliefs than the non-searchers. Comparison of individuals who reported seeking out information about specific diseases on the Internet with individuals who did not showed those who sought out disease-specific information on the Internet to be more health-oriented. Finally, consumers who sought out healthy lifestyle information on the Internet were more health conscious and more health-information oriented than those who did not. They were also more likely to hold stronger health-oriented beliefs and to engage in healthy activities.

Conclusions: The results support the functional theory of Internet use. Internet searchers who used the Internet for a wide range of health purposes were typically more health oriented than non-searchers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Attitude to Computers* / ethnology
  • Attitude to Health* / ethnology
  • Contraindications
  • Health Behavior* / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Information Services*
  • Internet*
  • Life Style / ethnology
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis
  • Sex Factors


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations