Half US Adults Have Chronic Illness
November 27, 2013

Almost Half Of US Adults Have A Chronic Health Condition, Those With Internet Proactively Get Help

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Forty-five percent of US adults report having one or more chronic health condition, according to a new national survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

The conditions reported in the survey range from high blood pressure and diabetes to less common conditions like lupus and cancer.

Not surprisingly, those suffering from these chronic conditions tend to be older and were more likely to have faced a medical emergency during the past year, according to the report.

The survey explored how Americans find, share, and create health information, and found a “diagnosis difference” tied to several aspects of health care and technology use. For instance, even after accounting for variables such as age, income, education, ethnicity and overall health status constant, having a chronic health condition has an independent, negative effect on a person’s likelihood to use the Internet, Pew said.

Indeed, the survey found that just 72 percent of people living with chronic health conditions have Internet access, compared with 89 percent of adults without these conditions. This is partly due to the fact that people who suffer from chronic health conditions tend to be older than the general population and have less education – both of which are associated with being offline.

However, those with chronic health condition who do have Internet access are more likely than other online adults to gather information online about medical problems, treatments and drugs. They are also more likely to consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments, and read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.

The survey found that thirty-one percent of people with chronic conditions went online specifically to try to determine what medical condition they or someone else might have.

This group is also more likely than other “online diagnosers” to consult with a medical professional about their findings, Pew said. About half of the time the clinician confirmed the patient’s suspicions, while about 20 percent of the time they offered a different opinion, according to the survey.

Overall, the study demonstrates that people with health concerns take their medical decisions seriously, and are highly social about gathering and sharing information both online and offline.

“Our research makes it clear that when the chips are down, people are most likely to get advice from a clinician, but online resources are a significant supplement,” said Susannah Fox, lead author of the study and an associate director at the Pew Research Center, in a statement.

“Just as significantly, once people begin learning from others online about how to cope with their illnesses, they join the conversation and also share what they know.”

The nationwide survey was based on telephone interviews of 3,014 US adults conducted by landline (1,808) and mobile phone (1,206) from August 7 to September 6, 2012. The full report can be viewed here.