Blog: Fascinating insight into differences across the UK in use of internet to find health info via @Ofcom

Ofcom – the UK’s communications regulator – this week published its annual Communications Market Report for 2016.

As ever, it’s an absorbing insight into how the British are using their smartphones and the internet.  This year we learnt that we are better connected than ever before but that many of us are feeling the need for a digital detox before it all gets out of hand. The fact that on average we spend more time on media and communications than sleeping, suggests that it already has.

We also get a glimpse into what people are using the internet for. The regional differences are fascinating.  When asked ‘What do you use the internet for?’ the percentage of people across the UK and in each of the four nations who said they use it to find information on health related issues was as follows:

UK 44%, Northern Ireland 57%, Wales 47%, England 45%, Scotland 31%.

When asked ‘what have you used the internet for in the past week?’ the percentage of people using it to find information on health related issues across the UK and in each of the nations was as follows:

UK 17%, Wales 23%, Northern Ireland 21%, England 18%, Scotland 8%.

A quick comparison with the 2015 Ofcom metrics bulletin suggests use of the internet to find health information is on an upward trend (for the UK as a whole, 38% in 2015 and 36% in 2014), that the rise is greatest in Northern Ireland (18% in 2015) and Wales (31% in 2015) while not so significant in Scotland (27%).  Whether socio-economic differences persist – with those in higher groups more likely to use the internet – I am unable to tell but my suspicion would be that it has. Interesting this 2015 data also people with a disability clearly do value the internet as a source of health information with 44% saying they use it for this purpose.

You might also find  interesting the ‘Digital Day’ work Ofcom did looking at people’s media and communications use during one day although none of the results are health specific.

The full Ofcom report can be found here.




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