Consumers spend a lot of time online these days. While media accounts are filled with reports about the hours consumed by social media interaction and mobile gaming, many consumers are using the Internet for more mundane activities. Specifically, they’re seeking information about health concerns. The results of the latest Pew Internet & American Life Project indicate that the third most common online activity, after e‑mail and searching, is researching health information. This trend should be a wake-up for marketers.
On average, 59% of consumers turn to the Internet for answers to their health questions. Here’s a demographic profile of consumers most likely to seek online health information:
- Women 65%
- Consumers between the ages of 18–29 71%
- Whites 63%
- Consumers with an income over $75,000 83%
- College graduates 81%
Consumers show little variation in the types of health related research they carry out online. The top categories of interest are:
- Specific disease or medical problem 66%
- Certain medical treatment or procedure 56%
- Doctors/other health professionals 44%
- Hospitals/medical facilities 36%
The only category in which men out-search women relates to environment health hazards. Black consumers search more than whites and Latinos on hospital and other medical facilities and on food safety or recalls. And Latinos show the highest rate of search for information on pregnancy and childbirth. Consumers in the 30–49 year-old age group have more interest than other age groups in how to manage chronic pain while consumers with the highest search rate for memory loss information are in the 50–64 year old age group.
Marketers should keep in mind that consumers may be searching online for friends or family members. However, with all of the consumer search activity taking place online, marketers in the healthcare products and services industry should ensure that their media mix includes a solid online presence.[Source: Fox, Susannah. Health Topics. Pew Internet.org. 1 Feb. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2011]