Profiling characteristics of internet medical information users.
The Internet's potential to bolster health promotion and disease prevention efforts has attracted considerable attention. Existing research leaves two things unclear, however: the prevalence of online health and medical information seeking and the distinguishing characteristics of individuals who seek that information. This study seeks to clarify and extend the knowledge base concerning health and medical information use online by profiling adults using Internet medical information (IMI). Secondary analysis of survey data from a large sample (n = 6,119) representative of the Atlanta, GA, area informed this investigation. Five survey questions were used to assess IMI use and general computer and Internet use during the 30 days before the survey was administered. Five questions were also used to assess respondents' health care system use. Several demographic characteristics were measured. RESULTS Contrary to most prior research, this study found relatively low prevalence of IMI-seeking behavior. Specifically, IMI use was reported by 13.2% of all respondents (n = 6,119) and by 21.1% of respondents with Internet access (n = 3,829). Logistic regression models conducted among respondents accessing the Internet in the previous 30 days revealed that, when controlling for several sociodemographic characteristics, home computer ownership, online time per week, and health care system use are all positively linked with IMI-seeking behavior. The data suggest it may be premature to embrace unilaterally the Internet as an effective asset for health promotion and disease prevention efforts that target the public.