Librarians know this, Pew confirms it: people look for health information online in ways that are somewhat irrational [link updated]. Special bonus for those that read to the end of this report: Medical Library Association: A User’s Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web. Note the difference, as highlighted on Crooked Timber of information seeking behavior between people who have broadband and people who have dial-up.
Experts say that Internet users should check a health site’s sponsor, check the date of the information, set aside ample time for a health search, and visit four to six sites. In reality, most health seekers go online without a definite research plan. The typical health seeker starts at a search site, not a medical site, and visits two to five sites during an average visit. She spends at least thirty minutes on a search. She feels reassured by advice that matches what she already knew about a condition and by statements that are repeated at more than one site.