Caregivers are turning to the internet for advice, support and health-related information more than ever before, according to new research by Pew Internet. According to the study, 30 percent of U.S. adults are serving in a caregiving capacity. Among the nearly eight in ten of those adults who have access to the internet (79 percent), 88 percent are using it to search for health information ranging from specific treatments to advice on end-of-life care.

There's a clear trend among internet behaviors of caregivers versus non-caregivers. A few key findings include:

  • Caregivers are more likely to search for reviews on specific medications and treatments (38 percent, compared to 18 percent of non-caregivers).

    [caption id="attachment_28795" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image by buzzybee on Stock.xchng"]Caregivers surf the net for health information.[/caption]

  • Caregivers are more likely to read personal health stories online (44 percent, compared to 29 percent of non-caregivers).
  • Caregivers are more likely to seek information for someone other than themselves (67 percent versus 54 percent of non-caregivers).
  • Caregivers are more likely to evaluate ratings for providers and health facilities (21/20 percent versus 13/12 percent of non-caregivers).
The social trend doesn't stop with online behaviors, however. An impressive 70 percent of caregivers report turning to friends or loved ones for information or support, compared to just 47 percent of non-caregivers.

Caregivers seek social support offline, too

Pew's research shows that caregivers are more likely to fall in the middle-age demographic (50-64) and trend towards being better educated than non-caregivers, variables that could skew the results of the research. For example, if more educated individuals or those who fall into the 50-64 age demographic are more likely to show the same behaviors, it could appear that the trend is attributed to caregiving and not the actual demographic attributes. But even when these variables are accounted for, caregivers showed a greater likelihood of turning to the internet for information.

Certain groups more likely to seek health information online

Overall, Pew's research finds that "being a caregiver, having attended college, living with a chronic condition, and having experienced a recent health change or health crisis oneself are all associated with a greater likelihood of researching health information online." A few categories stand out among caregivers as the most searched-for information:

  • Memory loss
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dementia
  • Long-term care
Less common but still significant topics include researching specific diseases and conditions, treatments and procedures and medication safety for specific pharmaceutical products.

These findings are further evidence for what many of us already suspect: The internet is becoming a go-to information hub that acts both as an educational resource and a way to connect with other caregivers or individuals with similar conditions. So if you're lagging behind the curve in becoming a resource for potential customers, now's the time to ramp up your content efforts.