Yet Again The French Offer the World Some Health Lessons

Beck, Richard, Nguyen-Thanh, et. al published “Use of the Internet as a Health Information Resource Among French Young Adults: From a Nationally Representative Survey” in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. 

The objectives 
(1) to provide information about the prevalence of Internet use for health-related purposes in France among young adults and define the sociodemographic, socioeconomic, and health-related profile of users, (2) to investigate the context and the impact of the information found on health-related behaviors, and (3) to assess the level of trust young adults have in the information found on the Internet.

This study was done in 2010 and surveyed 27,653 individuals in France. 

  • 48.5% (474/977) of Web users aged 15-30 years used the Internet for health purposes
  • Those not using the Internet for health purposed 75% reported information from other sources, 74.1% preferred seeing a physicians, 67.2% did not trust the information on the Internet.
  • 80% (371/474) young online health seekers considered information found online reliable. 
  • Women, individuals with higher sociocultural positions and individuals with executive or manager positions were more likely to use the Internet vs. employees and manual workers.
  • Women with children experiencing psychological distress participated in online health seeking. 
  • Online health seekers aged 15-30 years 33.3% reported they changed their health behaviors (e.g. frequency of medical consults, way of taking care of one’s health) because of online searches. 
  • The most common factors associated with different outcomes of change were psychological distress, poor quality of life, and low income. 

None of this is significantly new to those of us in the echo chamber of social media, epatients, blogging, etc. Yet this study demonstrates that the young will use the Internet, they trust it, and they will change behaviors. Clearly they have grown up online. They are not estranged from the Internet and embrace it. This group will likely be seen by physicians of similar ages so the patient and the physician share a common trust of the Internet for health seeking knowledge. 

This bodes well for healthcare going forward. As this group ages and faces illnesses they will have the tools and knowledge to find information and they will have the support of their physician. Those two factors alone will drive sea change in healthcare. We must cultivate and grow this trend. 

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