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Article on health-related search engine use published in Health Communication

Prevalence of health-related internet searches by type of information

Prevalence of health-related internet searches by type of information
Bildquelle: https://doi.org/10/gtg7gv

This study uses actual internet usage data to get a clearer picture of how people search for health information online, confirming that many people use search engines like Google for health queries and that there is little variation in this behavior across different groups of people. Additionally, it offers a detailed look at how people choose what health information to read, showing that the specifics of what they are searching for can influence their selection of sources.

News vom 15.02.2024

The article is the result of a joint project with Elena Link (Uni Mainz), Frank Mangold (GESIS), and Sebastian Stier (GESIS, Uni Mannheim).

The article is available here: https://doi.org/10/gtg7gv (open access).

Abstract: Internet searches for health-related purposes are common, with search engines like Google being the most popular starting point. However, results on the popularity of health information-seeking behaviors are based on self-report data, often criticized for suffering from incomplete recall, overreporting, and low reliability. Therefore, the current study builds on user-centric tracking of Internet use to reveal how individuals actually behave online. We conducted a secondary analysis of passively recorded Internet use logs to examine the prevalence of health-related search engine use, the types of health information searched for, and the sources visited after the searches. The analysis revealed two key findings. 1) We largely support earlier survey-based findings on the prevalence of online health information seeking with search engines and the relatively minor differences in information-seeking behaviors between socio-demographic groups. 2) We provide a more granular picture of the process of HISB using search engines by identifying different selection patterns depending on the scope of the searches.

Bachl, M., Link, E., Mangold, F., & Stier, S. (2024). Search Engine Use for Health-Related Purposes: Behavioral Data on Online Health Information-Seeking in Germany. Health Communication. https://doi.org/10/gtg7gv 

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