Investigating Relationships Between Health-Related Problems and Online Health Information Seeking

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Online health information seeking (OHIS) functions as a coping strategy to relieve health-related stress and problems. When people rate their health as poor or felt concern about their health, they frequently visit the Internet to seek health-related information in order to understand their symptoms and treatments. Regarding this role of OHIS, it is important to understand the relationships between health-related problems and OHIS. This study applies the Common-Sense Model as a theoretical lens to examine the relationship between health-related problems (ie, diagnosis of cancer, poor self-rated health, and psychological distress) and OHIS of adults in the US. Using the Health Information National Trends Survey 4 Cycle 1 (2012), a total of 2351 adult Internet users was included in this research. Hierarchical logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the research model, and the model adding psychological distress resulted in a statistically significant improvement in model fit. In this study, lower levels of self-rated health and higher levels of psychological distress were significantly associated with higher odds of OHIS. Study findings support the idea that individuals' low levels of self-rated health and high levels of perceived psychological distress make people search for health-related information via the Internet in order to cope with health-related concern and distress.

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