Health Information Seeking in the Digital Age

Authors: Christine Percheski and Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Percheski, C. & Hargittai, E. (2011). Health Information Seeking in the Digital Age. Journal of American College Health. 59(5):379-386.


Objective: The authors examined the sources of health information among first-year university students and whether the predictors of information-seeking varied by information source. Participants: First-year students in a required course at a Midwestern public university were eligible to participate, and 82% (n = 1060) completed the study. Methods: Students completed a survey questionnaire regarding information-seeking behaviors and Internet uses in domains including health. The authors used regression analyses to examine predictors of source-specific health information-seeking. Results: Young women are much more likely than young men to seek health information. The characteristics associated with looking online for health information are different than those for using other information sources, and students who look online for health information also report greater use of other information sources. Conclusions: Although the Internet is an important source of health information for students, health professionals should be aware that not all students equally utilize this resource.


  • Introduction
    • Health-Information Seeking and the Internet
  • Methods
    • Data collection
    • Measures
    • Analysis
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Limitations
  • Conclusions


The authors are grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for its support of this project. Percheski acknowledges support from the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program. Hargittai is indebted to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, The Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Fellowship in Communication and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The authors appreciate the support of faculty and staff at the University of Illinois-Chicago for making this study possible, namely, Mary Case, Ann Feldman, Tom Moss, and Karen Mossberger. They also thank the following people for their assistance with data collection and entry: Waleeta Canon, Soo An, Dan Li, and the group of undergraduate research assistants in the Web Use Project group during the 2006-07 academic year.

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