40% of Online Consumers Use Social Media for Health Information

According to a new study of 1,350 consumers by direct marketing agency Epsilon, 40% of online consumers use social media for health information.  The study identified two groups: 80% who are highly engaged patients, and take active roles in health management; and the 20% who lack confidence to play an active role in their own health.

Consumers engage with healthcare social media for both rational and emotional reasons. Emotional needs are primary, according to the study, with many healthcare social media users looking for reassurance, support and a sense of intimacy from people who are going through a similar experience. Rational needs, which are secondary, include searches for “foundational information” about specific conditions and symptoms, information about drugs and supplements and the latest health news.

Many participants reported mixed feelings about how pharmaceutical companies should participate in Web sites and social media, but most are open to some level of participation, as long as it is transparently disclosed.

Epsilon’s press release summarizing the results, with a link to the complete study (registration required).