Survey: Most caregivers became more reliant on online health information in the past year

By Aditi Pai
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Some 56 percent of caregivers said that in the past year they have become more reliant on online health information than they were in the year prior, according to an Edelman survey of 1,500 US adults. 

Edelman split the respondents into different groups with 420 millennial respondents, 826 generation X respondents, 254 seniors, and 200 caregivers, which Edelman defines as people who are responsible for the health decisions of a parent or other relative who is not a child. The firm defined online health information as reference sites that offer, for example, symptom checkers, doctor finders, or more information about specific treatments and procedures. 

A large number of caregivers, 58 percent, looked up information about medications online. Additionally, 57 percent of caregivers looked up information about health symptoms, 54 percent looked up information about specific diseases and conditions, and 50 percent looked up information about individual doctors. 

The most popular reason to access health information online among all respondents was to look up health symptoms (62 percent). Following health symptom searches, 51 percent of respondents said they looked up information on doctors, 50 percent looked up information about medications, and 50 percent looked up information on specific diseases and conditions.

Some 35 percent of respondents said they used the information they found online to self-diagnose their symptoms, 34 percent used it to verify other information sources, 32 percent used it to discuss things with their doctors, and 29 percent used online health information to make treatment decisions. 

Just 28 percent of all respondents said they used the information they found online to adjust their daily behaviors and 20 percent said they used online health info to select a doctor or health facility. Though using health information online for behavior change and provider selection was low among all respondents, Edelman found that caregivers were more likely to use health information for these reasons. About 36 percent of caregivers said they used online health information to encourage someone else to adjust their behaviors and 27 percent of caregivers used it to help someone else find a doctor.

When it comes to sharing information, 77 percent of caregivers said they shared online health information with others in the last year. While there is an overlap between that group and millennials, as a group some 73 percent of millennials surveyed said they share this kind of information with others. Among all the respondents, 61 percent said they shared health information. When caregivers shared online health information, most did so privately. Some 76 percent of caregivers shared information in person or by email, while 34 percent said they shared this information on social media. More millennials, 44 percent, shared health information on social media, while 70 percent said they shared health information via email.