How do Internet users behave with regards to health-related issues? How much clout is the Net acquiring as a source of information on aspects relating to health and wellbeing? Are there differences between different countries and between different genders?
These are some of the questions that the ‘Doctoralia Report on Health and Internet 2014’ hopes to answer through a study carried out simultaneously in Spain, Italy, France, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina in December 2014.
The investigation has been carried out by Doctoralia and directed by Dr. Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva, managing partner of Open Evidence, a spin-off of the Universitat Oberta de Cataluña (Open University of Catalonia), and included a sample of more than 4,000 survey participants globally.
Within a context of growing internet usage regarding medical consultations and activities about health, this study allows the new landscape to be assessed and comparisons to be made between different participating countries. From these first results we can extract the following general conclusions:
- 1 IN EVERY 4 INTERNET USERS SEARCHES FOR HEALTH INFORMATION ONLINE EVERY DAY
The results of the study reveal how, on average, in the countries where the study was carried out, 24% of users who search for health information on the internet, do so daily. This data shows the importance the internet is gaining among the general public as a means of finding this sort of information and also how the health industry has adapted to these new platforms, making health-related content accessible to everyone.
- LATIN AMERICA IS THE LEADER IN ONLINE HEALTH SEARCHES WHILE FRANCE AND ITALY TOP MOBILE APPS RELATED TO HEALTH
The use of health applications for mobiles and tablets has also grown, to the point that, on average, 1 in every 3 internet users from the countries where the study had been carried out said they had downloaded an application or software to monitor or control their health, lifestyle or wellbeing.
On a geographical level it’s worth pointing out that it is the Latin American countries which are most interested in online health: Chile heads the list with 34% of internet users searching for health information on a daily basis, followed by Colombia (32%), Argentina (27%), Mexico (24%) and Brazil (22%). Italy is the only European country matching the levels of these countries, reaching 29% of internet users.
Taking these figures just mentioned we can compare with how some European countries prefer to use health applications for mobile phones rather than online searches. In particular, Italy and France stand out above the rest with 45% and 38% respectively of users of these types of applications, although Spain is not far off (32%).
- INFORMATION, EXERCISE AND FITNESS, DRUG CONTROL AND DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENTS: HEALTH APPS NOW COVER ALL FIELDS AND THEIR USE IS GLOBAL
Among the four types of mobile phone health apps surveyed, those which provide most information are the most widely consulted (used by 3 in every 4 health app users) followed by those of exercise and fitness (64% of users), drug control (59%) and doctor’s appointments (43%).
In fact, during the past year there has been a surprising growth in applications related to health and physical wellbeing, and it is estimated that today there are close to 100,000 mobile apps related to these fields.
- MEN LEAD IN USE OF SMART DEVICES
In almost all the countries studied we can see how men are the ones who make the most use of portable devices for health control or a healthy lifestyle, with items like smart watches or wristband bracelets. UK is the only exception: only 6% of men use smart devices while women almost double this number (11%).
“These new devices or ‘wearables’ taking on different uses for men and women: men tend to see them more as a game, something entertaining, while for many women their use is more functional, based on monitoring their physical state. They also seem to be motivated by the competition with other users that this type of device allows and promotes at an online level” according to Dr. Llordachs, co-founder of Doctoralia.
On a geographical level, Italy is the country with the most users of these devices, with 10% more men than women making use of them, although the country with the greatest difference in use between the genders is Chile: 1 in every 5 men control their health via portable devices while only 1 in every 20 women do it.
It is also important to highlight the growth in the use of these devices in all the countries studied: more than 14% of those surveyed in each of the said countries claims to use these measurement tools.