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Europeans and online health information

How many people go online for health?

The starting point when looking at online audiences  should be to look past the hype and focus first on the basics – such as just how many people in your target country or countries are online.

Thankfully, collecting this kind of information for the public is a key focus for the European Commission (EC), which in common with many of its member states has a long-term plan to drive digital progress and get more people online.

The EC's Digital Agenda programme covers everything from telecoms costs to access to a broadband internet connection and, though its latest figures are from 2010, provides much data on online populations.

It shows that across all 27 countries of the European Union (EU 27) nearly 74 per cent of people have used the internet; just over 70 per cent of households have some form of access to the internet at home; and 60 per cent of households have a broadband internet connection.

Online Europeans and health

Health is a key focus of the EC's flagship programme, which was launched in 2010, and the Commission has repeatedly highlighted the potential of 'e-health' to address issues like healthcare costs, chronic diseases and the region's ageing population.

In 2010, 34% of the European Union's population browsed for health information, up from 16.1% in 2005, but there are wide variations between individual countries.

The research, which involved individuals aged 16-74, was quite broad. By 'health' it included information about injury, disease, nutrition, improving health and other healthcare categories.

More recently work by the Information Society Unit within the European Commission's Institute for Prospective and Technological Studies found higher numbers of people used the internet to look up health.

Its Citizens and ICT for Health, published online in 2012, found 41 per cent of people had looked online for health information more than once a month, and a further 40 per cent used the internet for this purpose on a less frequent basis of less than once a month.

The research also found a minority made regular monthly use of health/wellness mobile apps (used by 10 per cent of respondents), devices for transmitting things like vital signs or other clinical information (12 per cent) and game consoles to play health- or wellness-related games (12 per cent).

The ICT – information and communications technology – for Health online panel survey questioned 1,000 people each from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and the UK.

• The EC's Digital Agenda unit has a series of useful interactive graphs on Europeans who are online for health and more

4th April 2012

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