Health information-seeking behaviors, health indicators, and health risks

Am J Public Health. 2010 Aug;100(8):1520-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.180521. Epub 2010 Jun 17.


Objectives: We examined how different types of health information-seeking behaviors (HISBs)-no use, illness information only, wellness information only, and illness and wellness information combined-are associated with health risk factors and health indicators to determine possible motives for health information seeking.

Methods: A sample of 559 Seattle-Tacoma area adults completed an Internet-based survey in summer 2006. The survey assessed types of HISB, physical and mental health indicators, health risks, and several covariates. Covariate-adjusted linear and logistic regression models were computed.

Results: Almost half (49.4%) of the sample reported HISBs. Most HISBs (40.6%) involved seeking a combination of illness and wellness information, but both illness-only (28.6%) and wellness-only (30.8%) HISBs were also widespread. Wellness-only information seekers reported the most positive health assessments and the lowest occurrence of health risk factors. An opposite pattern emerged for illness-only information seekers.

Conclusions: Our findings reveal a unique pattern of linkages between the type of health information sought (wellness, illness, and so on) and health self-assessment among adult Internet users in western Washington State. These associations suggest that distinct health motives may underlie HISB, a phenomenon frequently overlooked in previous research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Consumer Health Information* / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet* / organization & administration
  • Life Style
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Washington