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Brussels, 16 April 2003

EU survey results: Europe goes on-line for health information, but still prefers more traditional sources

Where do Europeans turn when they want reliable information on health? A Eurobarometer survey published today by the European Commission shows that, across the EU, nearly one in four Europeans (23%) use the internet to get health information. The picture varies considerably, though, between countries: in Denmark and the Netherlands around 40% of people use the internet for health information, while in Greece, Spain, Portugal and France usage is at 15% or less. Health professionals, such as doctors and pharmacists, are still by far the most important source of health information for Europeans and the traditional media - television, newpapers, magazines - still outperform the internet. Other key findings of the survey are that medical and health organisations achieve the highest trust rating on health issues (84%), while businesses and political parties receive the lowest (16% and 11% respectively).

"This survey shows that there is a clear demand for on-line health information among Europe's citizens, but it also highlights issues of trust," said Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne. "A large number of Europeans are still unaware of the amount and reliability of health information that can be found on the web. The EU, via the Public Health Action Programme and the e-Health initiative, is working to ensure that Europeans have access to high quality, useful and trustworthy on-line health information."

Improving health information and knowledge is one of the priorities of the EU's €312 million Public Health Action Programme for 2003-2008 launched by Commissioner Byrne on 18 March (see IP/03/393).

Under the EU's e-Health initiative, the Commission has issued a Recommendation on quality criteria for health websites (see IP/02/1819). An EU Ministerial Conference on e-Health will be held in Brussels on 22-23 May (see IP/03/425).

Key findings of the survey:

41% of Europeans think the internet is a good way to get information about health. This figure rises to 62% in Denmark 61% the Netherlands. 16% do not think it is a good source of health information while 16% think it depends on the information they are looking for. 27% cannot decide.

45% of Europeans ranked health professionals like doctors and pharmacists as their main source of health information. 20% see television as their main source of health information, 8% said books, 7% newspapers and only 3.5% the internet.

Television (38.5% of responses), newspapers and magazines (both around 24%) scored well as additional sources of health information, as did discussions with family and friends (29%).

Medical and health organisations such as The Red Cross and 'Médecins sans frontières' are the most trusted sources of health information across the EU (trusted by 84%). Consumer organisations are the second most trusted source (67%), closely followed by schools and universities (65.5%) and environmental organisations (63%). The media was trusted by 39% of people surveyed, governments by 23% while business and political parties had the lowest trust rating when it comes to health information (16% and 11% respectively).

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

Further information

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