Patients use Facebook, Twitter, to get health information
March 4th, 2011
06:32 PM ET

Patients use Facebook, Twitter, to get health information

Patients are turning to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook for health information, according to a survey by the National Research Corporation.

In the survey of nearly 23,000 people in the United States, 16% said they use social media as a source of health care information. For nearly all of them – 94% - Facebook was their site of choice, with YouTube coming in a distant second at 32%. Eighteen percent of the respondents said they turned to MySpace or Twitter for health information.

One in four respondents said what they learned on these sites was “very likely” or “likely” to impact their future health decisions.

The respondents who used social media were 41 years old on average. People in households earning more than $75,000 were more likely to use social media for health care purposes than households earning less.

Another survey out this week found that one in four internet users living with a chronic ailment has gone online to find others with similar health condition.

“The internet enables people to help people in a way we couldn’t help each other before,” says Susannah Fox, author of the report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “The internet gives people access to not only information, but also to each other.”

Many of the patients who sought out other patients online have rare diseases.

“They say no one really knows what they’re going through except someone in the same situation,” Fox says. “Those personal tips can make all the difference in the world.”

 Most of the patients in the survey also consulted with their doctors.

 “The oft-repeated fear that patients are using the internet to self-diagnose and self-medicate without reference to medical professionals does not emerge,” according to Fox.

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