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NEW YORK The types of websites consumers turn to for health-and-wellness information and the reasons they go online for such information are greatly influenced by the stage of the condition they are experiencing and varies by ailment type, age and gender, according to research released Wednesday by Kantar Media.
“The Internet has become the source people turn to for health information,” stated Jayne Krahn, VP consumer health and custom research for Kantar Media. “While much is known about website visitation and patterns, less is known about the why and when, in terms of ailment conditions and stages,” she said. “This in-depth information ... can help marketers and content creators better plan, position and develop creative. It also has relevance for magazine publishers looking to demonstrate how their digital offerings can provide unique reach and build frequency for advertisers.”
While health-information websites were used more often than search engines across all stages of the 40 ailments covered in the study, search engines were the preferred next option at early stages of a condition. However, for those recently diagnosed, in recovery or living with an ongoing condition, websites dedicated to a particular condition were preferred over search engines.
Online behavior also is defined by type of ailment when it comes to those sites best able to drive visitors back. For example, the study found that those who used the Internet for diabetes information were twice as likely to go back to websites that offered helpful tools or connected them to a larger community of people with the same condition. Sites that offer easy access to medical professionals are favored by those researching cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.
Findings also indicated that men and women use online health research differently. Nearly 84% of women researched for someone else, compared with 75% of men who researched for others. When it comes to reading reviews or ratings about doctors, however, men were just as likely to do so as women.
With regard to age, 18 to 34 year olds were more likely to go online to find healthcare professionals and read reviews or ratings about physicians, while those older than 50 years sought information about a condition or treatment after visiting a doctor.
The analysis comes out of the MARS 2010 Online Behavior Study. The study, conducted among more than 5,000 respondents in the second quarter of this year, is an extension of the 2010 MARS OTC/DTC Study.
Among other findings:
- Of the 178 million Americans who have gone online in the past month, more than 89% have used the Internet for health research, with the typical user being female and younger than 50 years of age;
- The primary reason for going online for health information was to gain general knowledge about a condition (71%), followed by researching symptoms that either the individual or someone else was experiencing (59%);
- 56% of respondents said a healthcare professional recommendation makes a health website trustworthy, followed by 46% who said the inclusion of academic articles or scientific research does, and 39% who said having information that is easy to understand does;
- 79% said that they felt the Internet provides a wealth of resources when they are searching for health-and-wellness information, while 74% said they were very cautious about which websites they accessed for health-and-wellness information; and
- For those recently diagnosed with a condition, 77% said they first turned to online sources for information, second only to 81% who said they turned to a healthcare professional. Nearly 51% relied on magazines, pamphlets or other print publications.