Health Information Seeking

Authored by: Nehama Lewis , Nancy Shekter-Porat , Huda Nasir

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367488956
eBook ISBN: 9781003043379
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter defines and conceptualizes health information seeking (HIS), a core construct in health communication that has been shown to impact a range of psychosocial outcomes and behaviors. We discuss ways in which HIS has changed in the digital age and how these changes are reflected in published research. We conducted a narrative review of 170 published studies to assess the breadth and diversity of conceptual and methodological approaches used to examine HIS. Our sample includes research in five communication journals (two flagship health communication journals and three leading communication journals) that was published between 2010 and 2020. We analyze and discuss (a) theories used to study HIS, (b) the (health) contexts in which HIS was examined, (c) the populations studied, (d) the research methods and measures used, and (e) the channels for HIS that were examined. We identify methodological advances that enable new directions for research on HIS. We also note new research on negative effects of information seeking, such as effects on risk behaviors (e-cigarettes and substance use). Finally, we call for a reconsideration of theories and concepts used to study health-information-seeking behaviors to ensure these are adapted to our digital information environment.

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