All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for July 2003

Search for wellness goes online

A new survey shows most Americans have looked online for healthcare answers

Thursday, July 17, 2003
Jennifer Nejman
Daily Record staff

Eighty percent of adult Internet users — 93 million Americans — have searched online for information about at least one of several major health topics, according to a new survey.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project released its survey results Wednesday.

The nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based organization found most users — 63 percent — looked for information on a specific disease or medical problem, and 47 percent searched for information on a particular medical treatment or procedure.

The survey also found:

· One in three Internet users has looked for prescription or over-the-counter drug information.

· One in four has looked for health insurance information.

· One in five has looked for mental health information.

The survey’s numerical data was collected through telephone polling of 2,038 adults between November and December 2002 and comments from 1,971 Internet users submitted at the end of May through mid-August 2002.

Other topics that interested users included diet, vitamins, alternative treatments, sexual health and particular information about doctors and hospitals.

“As people get more experience online, their online universe grows,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Internet project.

Each day, nearly half of all Internet users surveyed are using e-mail, while 19 percent are researching products or services and 5 percent are buying stuff, according to the Internet project.

Other surveys by the project have found that people use the Internet for hobbies and health-related support groups.

Kay Dunklebarger, who has multiple sclerosis, said she’d be lost without her computer.

The 49-year-old York woman can’t attend a local support group meeting because she is confined to a wheelchair. Dunklebarger receives services through UCP of South Central PA, an organization that helps children and adults with disabilities.

A few years ago, she monitored a chat room for individuals with multiple sclerosis.

Through that online activity, she developed six friendships that she has since maintained through e-mail.

Of a cyber friend who lives in Long Island, Dunklebarger said, “We probably will never meet (in person) . . . We know each other’s hearts.”

Organizations like UCP and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill use Web sites to provide information.

Even though UCP’s Web site,, only recently got up and running, the organization already is adding 22 to 25 new links, said spokeswoman Jessica Walter-Groft, spokeswoman.

NAMI Pennsylvania, a statewide advocacy group, gets about 150 hits from new users each week on its site,

The Web is a useful tool, when it’s used in addition to professional consultation, said James Jordan, executive director of NAMI Pennsylvania.

“It’s an efficient and convenient way to get that information,” Jordan said. “It also provides a lot of privacy.”

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