AM Posters 2009 START Conference Manager    

To Search is to Believe? A Comparative Study of Health Information Use by Internet Users

Chang Liu, Ying-Hsang Liu and Tao Xu

(Submission #108)


This study was designed to characterize health information seekers on the Internet using relatively large-scale survey data. The primary goals are to (1) ascertain whether the information seekers’ credibility assessment of online health information varies by levels of Web searching activities, and (2) identify specific impacts of online health information on decision-making. Using a national survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project (2006) (N = 2,928), we conducted TwoStep cluster analysis focusing on the health-related topics. We successfully identified and labeled the two clusters of health information users as ‘experienced’ and ‘inexperienced’ users. The data suggests that experienced users were more likely to evaluate the credibility of online health information resources than inexperienced users; types of users did not make a difference in searches on behalf of others. More importantly, between experienced and inexperienced users online health information had strong impacts on three specific aspects of decision-making: (1) the treatment on an illness or condition, (2) the overall approach and (3) asking new questions. The results advance our understanding of users’ credibility assessment of online health information sources. Given these findings we provide avenues for future research.

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