Somebody Google a Doctor! Urgent Health Information Seeking Habits of Young Adults

Jason Anthony Cain 1 * , Cory Armstrong 2, Jue Hou 2
More Detail
1 School of Journalism and New Media, University of Mississippi, USA
2 Department of Journalism and Creative Media, University of Alabama, USA
* Corresponding Author
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 10, Issue 2, Article No: e202006.
OPEN ACCESS   2311 Views   1476 Downloads   Published online: 24 Mar 2020
Download Full Text (PDF)


Introduction: While much scholarship has been done on health information-seeking habits, comparatively little has been done on these habits among young adults.
Objective: The primary objective of this study was to determine to which media young adults turn during an urgent health crisis, which factors correspond to their choice, and if information-seeking corresponded to visiting a health professional.
Method: A survey method was used, sampling students from two large universities.
Results: Credibility was the most consistent factor in predicting respondent media choice for an urgent health matter. Whether respondents were socially conservative or liberal affected media choice, as did perceptions of online and traditional media credibility. Searching for health information online corresponded to more frequently visiting health professionals.
Conclusion: This study supports that young adults turn to a variety of media sources, traditional and online, during health crisis and that this information-seeking does correspond to visiting health professionals after.


Cain, J. A., Armstrong, C., & Hou, J. (2020). Somebody Google a Doctor! Urgent Health Information Seeking Habits of Young Adults. Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, 10(2), e202006.


  • Anker, A. E., Reinhart, A. M., & Feeley, T. H. (2011). Health information seeking: a review of measures and methods. Patient education and counseling, 82(3), 346-354.
  • Armstrong, C. L., McAdams, M. J., & Cain, J. (2015). What is news? Audiences may have their own ideas. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 23(2), 81-98.
  • Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & Wilkin, H. A. (2009). Ethnic differences in health information-seeking behavior: Methodological and applied issues. Communication Research Reports, 26(1), 22-29.
  • Bartlett, M. S. (1954). A note of the multiplying factors for various Chi-squares approximations. Journal of Royal Statistical Society, 16 (series B), 296-298.
  • Bennett, P. D., & Mandell, R. M. (1969). Prepurchase information seeking behavior of new car purchasers: The learning hypothesis. Journal of Marketing Research, 430-433.
  • Bond, B. J., Hefner, V., & Drogos, K. L. (2009). Information-seeking practices during the sexual development of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals: The influence and effects of coming out in a mediated environment. Sexuality & Culture, 13(1), 32-50.
  • Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 210-230.
  • Brubaker, J. (2008). The freedom to choose a personal agenda: Removing our reliance on the media agenda. American Communication Journal, 10(3), 1-1. Retrieved from
  • Carpenter, D. M., DeVellis, R. F., Hogan, S. L., Fisher, E. B., DeVellis, B. M., & Jordan, J. M. (2011). Use and perceived credibility of medication information sources for patients with a rare illness: Differences by gender. Journal of Health Communication, 16(6), 629-642.
  • CDC. (2017). 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Retrieved from
  • Chaffee, S. H., & Metzger, M. J. (2001). The end of mass communication? Mass Communication & Society, 4(4), 365-379.
  • Chaudhry, B., Wang, J., Wu, S., Maglione, M., Mojica, W., Roth, E., ... & Shekelle, P. G. (2006). Systematic review: impact of health information technology on quality, efficiency, and costs of medical care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 144(10), 742-752.
  • Cline, R. J., & Haynes, K. M. (2001). Consumer health information seeking on the Internet: The state of the art. Health Education Research, 16(6), 671-692.
  • Eastin, M. S., Kahlor, L. A., Liang, M. C., & Abi Ghannam, N. (2015). Information-seeking as a precaution behavior: Exploring the role of decision-making stages. Human Communication Research, 41(4), 603-621.
  • Fox, S., & Duggan, M. (2013). Health online 2013. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
  • Houston, T. K., & Allison, J. J. (2002). Users of Internet health information: differences by health status. Journal of medical Internet research, 4(2).
  • Kaiser, H. F. (1970). A second generation little jiffy. Psychometrika, 35(4), 401-415.
  • Kent, M. L., & Taylor, M. (2005). Taking your public relations experience from the boardroom into the classroom. Public Relations Quarterly, 50(1), 13-18.
  • Kiel, G. C., & Layton, R. A. (1981). Dimensions of consumer information seeking behavior. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(2), 233-239.
  • Magee, J. C., Bigelow, L., DeHaan, S., & Mustanski, B. S. (2012). Sexual health information seeking online: A mixed-methods study among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people. Health Education & Behavior, 39(3), 276-289.
  • McCall, J. M. (1987). Liberal arts focus provides training for media careers. The Journalism Educator, 42(2), 17-21.
  • McGloin, R., Richards, K., & Embacher, K. (2016). Examining the potential gender gap in online health information-seeking behaviors among digital natives. Communication Research Reports, 33(4), 370-375.
  • Obar, J. A., & Wildman, S. S. (2015). Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue. Telecommunications Policy, 39(9), 745-750.
  • Percheski, C., & Hargittai, E. (2011). Health information-seeking in the digital age. Journal of American College Health, 59(5), 379-386.
  • Pew Research Center. (2018). Internet/broadband fact sheet. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
  • Phang, A., & Schaefer, D. J. (2009). Is ignorance bliss? Assessing Singaporean media literacy awareness in the era of globalization. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 64(2), 156-172.
  • Phua, J., & Tinkham, S. (2016). Authenticity in obesity public service announcements: Influence of spokesperson type, viewer weight, and source credibility on diet, exercise, information seeking, and electronic word-of-mouth intentions. Journal of Health Communication, 21(3), 337-345.
  • Prestin, A., Vieux, S. N., & Chou, W. Y. S. (2015). Is online health activity alive and well or flatlining? Findings from 10 years of the Health Information National Trends Survey. Journal of Health Communication, 20(7), 790-798.
  • Rains, S. A., & Karmikel, C. D. (2009). Health information-seeking and perceptions of website credibility: Examining web-use orientation, message characteristics, and structural features of websites. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(2), 544-553.
  • Ramirez, A., Walther, J. B., Burgoon, J. K., & Sunnafrank, M. (2002). Information-seeking strategies, uncertainty, and computer-mediated communication. Human communication research, 28(2), 213-228.
  • Rhodes, L., & Roessner, A. (2009). Teaching magazine publishing through experiential learning. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 63(4), 304.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Chaffee, S. H. (1983). Communication as an academic discipline: A dialogue. Journal of Communication, 33(3), 18-30.
  • Smith, B. K., & Gustafson, A. (2017). Using Wikipedia to predict election outcomes: Online behavior as a predictor of voting. Public Opinion Quarterly, 81(3), 714-735.
  • Syn, S. Y., & Kim, S. U. (2016). College students’ health information activities on Facebook: Investigating the impacts of health topic sensitivity, information sources, and demographics. Journal of Health Communication, 21(7), 743-754.
  • Vaterlaus, J. M., Patten, E. V., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2015). # Gettinghealthy: The perceived influence of social media on young adult health behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 151-157.
  • Ward, B. W., Dahlhamer, J. M., Galinsky, A. M., & Joestl, S. S. (2014). Sexual orientation and health among US adults. National Health Interview Survey, 2013. Retrieved from
  • Weeks, B., & Southwell, B. (2010). The symbiosis of news coverage and aggregate online search behavior: Obama, rumors, and presidential politics. Mass Communication and Society, 13(4), 341-360.
  • Wenger, D. H., Owens, L. C., & Cain, J. (2017). Help Wanted: Realigning Journalism Education to Meet the Needs of Top US News Companies. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 71(1), 18-36.
  • Willoughby, J. F., & Myrick, J. G. (2016). Does context matter? Examining PRISM as a guiding framework for context-specific health risk information seeking among young adults. Journal of Health Communication, 21(6), 696-704.
  • Ybarra, M., & Suman, M. (2006). Reasons, assessments and actions taken: sex and age differences in uses of Internet health information. Health education research, 23(3), 512-521.