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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Americans use net to stay healthy
Checking out doctors and hospitals is becoming common
Americans are increasingly turning to the internet for information on health.

A survey by the Pew Internet Project found that 95 million Americans - around half of the population - have done their "health homework" online.

Women are particularly interested in nutrition while parents are more likely to check online for information about health insurance.

Users with a broadband connection are increasingly checking out particular doctors or hospitals online.

Staying well

Specific disease or medical problem - 66%
Medical procedure or treatment - 51%
Diet, nutrition, vitamins - 51%
Exercise or fitness - 42%
Prescription or over-the-counter medicines - 40%
Health insurance - 31%
Alternative treatments or medicines - 30%
A particular doctor or hospital - 28%
Depression, stress or mental health issues - 23%
Experimental treatments or medicines - 23%

The more sophisticated ways people are using the net has had a knock-on effect to the way people think about their health said Susannah Fox, association director of the Pew Internet Project.

"Several years ago the usual internet health search was for someone in real medical need such as an outbreak of worrisome symptoms or a new medical diagnosis," she said.

"These days, experienced internet users and those with broadband connections are just as likely to be looking up information on how to stay well, which doctors have the best surgical record, or what insurance pricing options are available," she said.

Medical experts advice people seeking health answers online to be very careful. There is a great deal of misinformation out there and many sites offering counterfeit medicines.

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