75 Percent of Youth Look for Health on Net

ByABC News
December 10, 2001, 1:07 PM

Dec. 11 -- More young people get health information from the Internet than use it to download music, play games, or check sports scores, a new survey finds.

"Young people aren't just going online to download the latest song from the Red Hot Chili Peppers or look for information on George Clooney's latest movie," said Vicky Rideout, the vice president and director of the program for the study of entertainment media and health for the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey. "They're also looking for information on health issues that are really important to them."

The foundation polled 1,209 Americans aged 15 to 24 between Sept. 24 and Oct. 31. It found three out of four young people who use the Internet have searched for health and medical information. In fact, the only activities that more young people reported paticipating in were e-mailing, school research, and finding news and entertainment information.

The survey, which has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, is the first to look in depth at how young people use the Internet for health purposes. For comparison, adult-use surveys, such as The Pew Internet and American Life Project, report that only 60 percent of online adults use the Internet to find health information.

Online Sex Ed

Nearly half of the young people surveyed use the Internet to access information on sexual health not surprising, considering that a vast majority listed sexual health issues such as pregnancy, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases as being "very important." Drug abuse and sexual assault were also considered "very important" topics by roughly three out of four surveyed.

Experts agree that the confidentiality and convenience that the Internet provides makes it a likely choice for young people who might be too embarrassed to discuss sexual issues with their parents or doctors.

"It may be something they don't want their parents to know about, an STD [sexually transmitted disease] or something like that they would much rather go to the Internet than to a parent," said Dr. Robert Johnson, the director of adolescent and young adult medicine at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, N.J.