Reasons, assessments and actions taken: sex and age differences in uses of Internet health information

Health Educ Res. 2008 Jun;23(3):512-21. doi: 10.1093/her/cyl062. Epub 2006 Jul 31.


The Internet is transforming the way in which consumers approach their health care needs. Sex and age are influential aspects of one's health as well as disease risk and are thus integral components of the emerging picture of health information seekers. Using data from Surveying the Digital Future, Year 4, a nationally representative, longitudinal telephone survey of Americans 12 years of age and older (n = 2010), we examine the reasons for, assessments of and actions taken as a result of health information found online among men and women and older and younger people. Although we tend to think of the Internet as a young person's technology, the percent of adults 60 years of age and older is similar to that of adolescents using the Internet as a health care information resource, thus suggesting an untapped opportunity with online interventions for older adults. Nonetheless, as age increases so too does the report of frustration with the experience. Men are more likely to report a positive seeking experience than women. Differences in Internet use fail to explain these observed sex and age differences in the seeking experience. Across the spectrum of age, sex and Internet skill, Internet health information seeking appears to enhance the patient-provider relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors