Inquiring Minds Acquiring Wellness: Uses of Online and Offline Sources for Health Information

Authors: Kerry Dobransky and Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Dobransky, K. & Hargittai, E. (2012). Inquiring Minds Acquiring Wellness: Uses of Online and Offline Sources for Health Information. Health Communication. 27(4):331-343.


Variation in ability to access and use health information is a key pathway through which social status may impact health. Digital media offer new opportunities for health-information seeking potentially lowering barriers to such content. Using a data set with nuanced information about what sources a diverse group of college students consults for different types of health material, coupled with detailed measures of Internet experiences, this paper explores factors related to where young adults turn for health content. Results suggest considerable sex differences in practices across sources of health information. We also find differences in Hispanic students' actions based on parents' country of origin across sources. Finally, challenging assumptions about the universal savvy of young adults, findings suggest that those who are more highly-skilled with the Internet are more likely to use it for health-information seeking and Internet experiences are especially important for explaining who turns to online discussions in this realm. Our findings contribute not only to a better understanding of health information seeking and health inequality, but also point to possible sites of intervention to ameliorate health disparities.


  • Introduction
  • Health Inequality and Health-Information Seeking
  • Digital Inequality and Health-Information Seeking Online
  • Data and Methods
    • Measures: user background
    • Measures: Internet experiences
    • Measures: health-information seeking
    • Measures: health status and interest
  • Results
    • Prevalence of health-information seeking using different sources
    • Explaining differences in treatment health information seeking
    • Explaining differences in health lifestyle information seeking
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

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