“Easier accessibility and no wait time” is prompting millions of Internet users, especially in countries like India, to search on health matters online. A recent survey conducted by Jana’s mCent browser, the world’s largest provider of free internet access in emerging markets, found that 41.3 per cent of its respondents use search engines to research their health concerns at least once a week. While searching on health, exercise and fitness (49.7 per cent) followed by food or nutrition (43.6 per cent) seems to dominate the queries.
“One of the most surprising findings from our report was not only the type of things that consumers often search for but the frequency as well, with about 40 per cent of Indian consumers saying they research matters of their health on search engines at least once a week,” Nathan Eagle, CEO and co-founder of Jana, told indianexpress.com in an email interaction. He said that ‘food and nutrition’ and ‘exercise or fitness” ranked highest, while searching for specific diseases or conditions and related treatments were next.
But eagle said that there was also a fair degree of skepticism, especially in the case of Google search results. “While the overall impact on trust remains to be seen, with one in five consumers saying they only trust the advice of their doctor or physician, this will be an interesting trend to watch over time.” The survey showed that a substantial number of respondents (42.3 per cent) were concerned about “Search Bias” and of these 21.7 per cent had stopped using Google Search for health matters.
“Dr Google is a common phenomenon, but the recent change of opinion is coming from new reports about Google’s trustworthiness. Our study showed that Indian consumers, like most consumers, rely on Google and other search engines for accurate health information, but reports about search bias and recent antitrust concerns have played a role in changing sentiments,” Eagle said.
However, almost a quarter of respondents (23.5 per cent) still used Google Assistant to perform their health searches, more than Alexa (8.2 per cent), social media (15.9 per cent), or a mobile app (15.7 per cent).
“We found that Bing is second most trustworthy among search engines next to Google and the quality of those search results points to their growing market share in the region. Doctor recommendations, however, are still preferred among consumers when getting health advice that people trust, with nearly 37 per cent, saying that’s where they go first, but consulting with friends and family was a close second with about 29 per cent of Indian consumers exploring that as a first option,” Eagle added.
The survey was conducted on 1,700 individuals using Jana mCent browser.