Objective: To determine what types of consumers use the Internet as a source of health information.
Data sources: A survey of consumer use of the Internet for health information conducted during December 2001 and January 2002.
Study design: We estimated multivariate regression models to test hypotheses regarding the characteristics of consumers that affect information seeking behavior.
Data collection: Respondents were randomly sampled from an Internet-enabled panel of over 60,000 households. Our survey was sent to 12,878 panel members, and 69.4 percent of surveyed panel members responded. We collected information about respondents' use of the Internet to search for health information and to communicate about health care with others using the Internet or e-mail within the last year.
Principal findings: Individuals with reported chronic conditions were more likely than those without to search for health information on the Internet. The uninsured, particularly those with a reported chronic condition, were more likely than the privately insured to search. Individuals with longer travel times for their usual source of care were more likely to use the Internet for health-related communication than those with shorter travel times.
Conclusions: Populations with serious health needs and those facing significant barriers in accessing health care in traditional settings turn to the Internet for health information.