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Using the Internet and Email for Health Purposes: The Impact of Health Status


  • *Direct correspondence to Melinda Goldner, Department of Sociology, Union College, Schenectady, NY 12308. The author acknowledges the anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments, as well as the staff at the Pew Internet & American Life Project for making the data available, and answering questions concerning data analysis. The author will share all data and coding information with those interested.


Objective. Increasingly, people use the Internet and email for health purposes; however, we know little about whether this varies by health status. This study examines whether sick or healthy people are more likely to access the Internet, conduct online health searches, and exchange emails regarding health issues.

Methods. We conduct multivariate analysis on a random sample of 2,038 adults.

Results. Despite greater Internet access, respondents in excellent/good health are less likely to say they conduct online health searches because they have no health concerns or are satisfied with other health sources. In contrast, sick and disabled respondents are more likely to seek medical information online, and do so more frequently. They are also more likely to exchange health emails with friends and physicians.

Conclusions. Practitioners especially need to educate their sicker patients about the uneven quality of online health information since they are more likely than healthier patients to conduct online health searches.