Editor’s Note: Scientific and technological advances have made HIV a manageable chronic disease for many people, allowing individuals to lead healthy, happy, and productive lives. With World AIDS Day (December 1) approaching, Pew Research Center’s new report about how people living with a chronic disease access health information and use social media is particularly timely. One of their findings is that federal government health websites are popular among those living with chronic conditions. The following is an except from the report overview.
A new national survey, “The Diagnosis Difference” by the Pew Research Center, supported by the California HealthCare Foundation, explores how adults with chronic conditions gather, share, and create health information, both online and offline.
The Pew Research Center’s analysis indicates a “diagnosis difference” that is tied to several aspects of health care and technology use. For example, holding other variables constant (including age, income, education, ethnicity, and overall health status), the fact that someone has a chronic condition is independently associated with being offline.
The diagnosis difference cuts another way, too. This study provides evidence that many people with serious health concerns take their health decisions seriously—and are seriously social about gathering and sharing information, both online and offline.
Internet users living with one or more conditions are more likely than other online adults to:
- Gather information online about medical problems, treatments, and drugs.
- Consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments.
- Read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.
When we control other demographic factors, such as age, income, education, race, and overall health rating, we find that having a chronic condition significantly increases the likelihood that someone will take part in any of the following activities: downloading forms, posting comments, reading or watching someone else’s commentary or experience about health, and signing up for email updates.
“Our research makes it clear that when the chips are down, people are most likely to get advice from a clinician, but online resources are a significant supplement,” says Susannah Fox, lead author of the study and an associate director at the Pew Research Center. “Just as significantly, once people begin learning from others online about how to cope with their illnesses, they join the conversation and also share what they know.”
This video provides an overview of the report: