Primary sources of health information: comparisons in the domain of health attitudes, health cognitions, and health behaviors

Health Commun. 2004;16(3):273-88. doi: 10.1207/S15327027HC1603_1.


The recent growth in consumer autonomy in health care accompanied by the surge in the use of new media for health information gathering has led to an increasing scholarly interest in understanding the consumer health information search construct. This article explores consumer health information seeking in the realm of the primary sources of health information used by consumers. Based on an analysis of the 1999 HealthStyles data, the paper demonstrates that active communication channels such as interpersonal communication, print readership, and Internet communication serve as primary health information sources for health-conscious, health-information oriented individuals with strong health beliefs, and commitment to healthy activities. On the other hand, passive consumption channels such as television and radio serve as primary health information resources for individuals who are not health-oriented. Media planning implications are drawn from the results, suggesting that broadcast outlets with an entertainment orientation are better suited for prevention campaigns. Such channels provide suitable sites for entertainment-education. On the other hand, print media, interpersonal networks, and the Internet are better suited for communicating about health issues to the health-active consumer segment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Information Services / classification
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mass Media
  • United States