The Internet as a health guide

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Every second German citizen regularly informs himself about the range of health issues

Every second German citizen now uses the Internet regularly or irregularly to research health matters. Five years ago it was 50 percent of internet users.

The Internet has developed into a veritable treasure trove of knowledge acquisition. One of the top areas is health. More and more Germans are using a search engine such as Google or Bing to search for advice and health sites. According to the industry association "Bitkom", almost 28 million German citizens used the Internet to find out about diseases, symptoms, healthy eating or naturopathy. That is a good 60 percent of all Germans who have an Internet connection. According to the association, the figures presented were submitted and determined by the European statistical authority "Eurostat". In 2006, exactly five years ago, 50 percent of users still found out about health. Accordingly, there is an increase of a good 10 percent.

More citizens with their own internet connection
In Germany, around 74 percent of adults have their own online connection, according to measurements by the “Research Group Elections”. Over 80 percent of young people in Germany use the Internet regularly. However, the collection of the key figures is not entirely uniform and precisely determinable, since there are more and more internet-enabled smartphones in circulation that were not recorded in this evaluation. In 2005 it was only half of the Germans. Every second German citizen between the ages of 16 and 74 uses the web to procure relevant health issues. In 2006 it was 34 percent of Germans. No precise key figures have yet been collected for 2005.

Germany at the top
In a European comparison, Germany occupies a leading position in health research. Only Luxembourg (58 percent), Finland (57 percent), Denmark (52 percent) and the Netherlands achieved higher rates with 50 percent. On average, every third citizen in the European Union (EU) between 16 and 74 years of age searches for health tips or special topics.

Online sales of medicines
The marketing of pharmaceuticals on the Internet is also playing an increasingly important role. According to the representative survey of the "Bitkom" association, every sixth German citizen with an internet connection has already ordered a drug online. In absolute numbers, around nine million Germans aged 14 and over have bought a drug from an online pharmacy or other mail order company.

The Internet should in no way replace a visit to the doctor or naturopath. But the web can be used, for example, to provide general home remedies for minor complaints. "The Internet is an almost infinite source of information on the subject of health," said Bitkom Vice President Heinz Paul Bonn. Because it offers, for example, "old house recipes for colds, tips for a healthy diet or the possibility of exchanging experiences with more serious illnesses - a visit to the doctor, however, does not replace it." The latter, for example, creates a good network and exchange of knowledge for those affected by rare diseases caution is also advised: "If you read a number of forum posts without the necessary background knowledge, you can quickly get into supposed illnesses," warns Gritli Bertram, a social worker from Hanover. Anxiety disorders can thus manifest themselves. "Cyberchonder". (Sb)

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Image: Alexandra H. /

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