Over the past five years, there has been an explosion in
Internet access in the United States. With the growth in Internet
use has also come increased attention to the role of the Web as a
source of consumer health information. For young people in
particular, the Internet could be especially important since the
health issues that concern them are often sensitive, and many may
not have an established relationship with a doctor other than
their family doctor. Increased access to health information could
create a more informed and healthful youth. On the other hand, if
the quality of online information is not high or the source
unknown, increased reliance on the Internet could lead to greater
misinformation and skepticism. This report analyzed the results
of a nationally representative, random dial telephone survey of
1,209 respondents ages 15 to 24, including an over-sample of
approximately 200 African-American and Latino youth, between
Sept. 24 and Oct. 31, 2001.
Some key findings:
- Among all 15- to 24-year-olds, nine out of ten (90 percent) have
gone online. More than two out of three (68 percent) have gotten
health information online.
- Of those online youth, three out of four (75 percent) have used
the Internet at least once to find health information. Four in
ten (44 percent) have looked up information online about
pregnancy, birth control, HIV/AIDS, or other STDs.
- Among the online health seekers, four out of ten (39 percent, or
27 percent of all respondents) look up health information at
least once a month. Four out of ten (39 percent) say they
generally find online health information "very useful" while just
5 percent say it's generally "not too" and 1 percent "not at all"
useful. Four out of ten (39 percent, or 26 percent of all
respondents) say they have changed their personal behavior
because of health information they got online. One in seven (14
percent) have seen a doctor or other health provider because of
health information they got online (18 percent for females and 8
percent for males).
- Among the 76 percent of 15- to 17-years-olds seeking online
health information, nearly half (46 percent) say they have been
blocked from non-pornographic sites by filtering technology.
- More young people (84 percent) consider sexual health issues
such as pregnancy, AIDS and other STDs to be "very important" for
people their age compared to any other health issue asked about
in the survey.
- Among online youth, those most likely to look for information on
HIV/AIDS include African-Americans (45 percent vs. 26 percent of
whites), females (34 percent vs. 25 percent of males), and teens
(33 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds vs. 26 percent of 20- to 24-
- Online females are also much more likely than males to look up
information on pregnancy and birth control (33 percent vs. 15
percent). Fully half (51 percent) of online girls ages 15 to 17
have looked up information on a sexual health topic, as have a
third (33 percent) of online boys in this age group.
- African-Americans who have sought health information are more
likely to report changing their behavior than others, with fully
half (52 percent) saying they have done so (42 percent of
Hispanics and 37 percent of whites).
- Few young people say they would trust health information from
the Internet "a lot" (17 percent), although an additional 40
percent say they would trust it at least "somewhat." This is
still far behind their trust in health information found on the
TV news (76 percent would trust it somewhat or a lot) or in
newspapers (72 percent).
Back to other CDC news for March 19, 2002
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.