Over half of adults use internet for health advice

More than half of UK adults have used a search engine to look for medical information, according to a new online survey.

The YouGov poll, commissioned by Health-on-Line, asked people how often they visit their doctors and which alternatives they use to talking to their GP. The results revealed that 53 per cent have used search engines to look for medical information, while 47 per cent have used an online medical resource.

Over three-quarters of those who have used the internet or a smartphone/ tablet app to get medical information said it was the fastest option. Of those who have used the internet or a smartphone/tablet app to find medical information, the majority (78 per cent) say that it is the fastest way to find what they need, while just under a third say they like to use online resources no matter what the problem. However, GPs at 76 per cent and pharmacists at 64 per cent are still the most popular sources of medical information.

The 18- to 24-year-old age group were the least likely to visit a doctor (67 per cent) or pharmacist (47 per cent) and the most likely to use online medical resources (64 per cent). Younger people were also the most likely to use social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter as a source of medical information. The findings indicate that web-based resources are growing in popularity, particularly among the younger generation.

Despite the popularity of the internet as a source of medical information, only 7 per cent believe that the information they find online is likely to be highly accurate.

Fiona Carter of Health-on-Line said: “The internet has put more information than ever in the hands of patients: not only about symptoms and their possible causes, but also as a tool for locating hospitals, making appointments and interacting with doctors.

“However, it’s vital to make sure patients still contact trained medical professionals about any health problems they have; self-diagnosis can be unhelpful or even dangerous in some cases.”