45% U.S. adults have a chronic condition, many gather and share information online.

A new nationwide survey of 3,014 adults living in the U.S. found that 45 percent (1,498 respondents) live with one or more chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, but also less common conditions like lupus and cancer. They are more likely than other adults to be older, to have faced a medical emergency in the past year, and, as other studies have shown, to contribute to the explosion of health care costs in the U.S.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, supported by the California HealthCare Foundation, explored how adults with chronic conditions gather, share, and create health information, both online and offline.

The 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.

On the other hand, the study provides evidence that many people with serious health concerns take their health decisions seriously, 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.

“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.”

The survey also includes an extensive appendix which contains stand-alone analysis of each group included in the survey: the general population, adults living with high blood pressure, adults living with lung conditions, adults living with diabetes, adults living with heart conditions, adults living with cancer, and adults living with other chronic health conditions. The researchers commented that because one in five U.S. adults are living with two or more conditions, they cannot compare the groups.

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