Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Study: Health information and the Internet

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

The Daily

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More than one-third of Canadian adults, over half of them women, used the Internet to search for health information in 2005, according to a new study.

Among those who also visited a doctor, more than one-third discussed the results of their Internet search with their physician.

The study, "Getting a second opinion: Health information and the Internet," appears today in Health Reports. Using data from the 2005 Canadian Internet Use Survey, the study examines adults' use of the Internet to access health information.

Of the estimated 15 million Canadians who used the Internet from home in 2005, 58%, or 8.7 million, went online at some point to search for health information.

A relatively high proportion of these "health users" were women, and had higher levels of education and income. They also tended to be engaged Internet users. That is, they were more likely to access the Internet daily, to spend at least five hours a week online, to have more online activities, and to have been using the Internet for at least five years.

Health users commonly searched for information on specific diseases, with 56% using the Internet for this purpose. Half of them reported searching for lifestyle information, such as diet, nutrition and exercise. Other topics frequently investigated were specific symptoms, drugs or medications, and alternative therapies.

The type of information sought by health users varied with their age and sex. Proportionately more adults aged 18 to 44 looked for data on lifestyle and the health care system, while comparatively more adults aged 45 or older sought information on specific diseases and on drugs or medications.

About 38% reported that they had discussed their findings with a family doctor or health care provider. Individuals searching for information on surgeries were particularly likely to have done so. In fact, over half (54%) of people who sought information on surgeries and who had contacted a doctor during 2005 reported that they had discussed their Internet findings with a family doctor or health-care provider.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4432.

The article, "Getting a second opinion: Health information and the Internet," which is part of today's Health Reports online release, Vol. 19, no. 1 (82-003-XWE, free), is now available from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this article, contact Cathy Underhill (613-951-6023; or Larry McKeown (613-951-2582;, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Christine Wright (613-951-1765;, Health Information and Research Division.