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Whether it’s changing a career, choosing a school, or dealing with a family or personal illness, nearly 60 million Americans are turning to the Web to find answers that, until very recently, weren’t readily available, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

As broadband penetration continues to inch forward and more information finds its way onto the Internet, time constraints and confusion over where to start looking online for answers have largely faded away. Now, Americans routinely surf the Web to help make more informed decisions – and to keep current on breaking news.

A snippet from the Reuters article on these findings:

An estimated 21 million Americans turned to the Internet when seeking more training for a career, while 17 million used it to choose a school for a family member or to help another person with a major illness, the Pew Internet group said.


Some 16 million Americans used the Internet when buying a car or making a major investment or financial decision, it said. An estimated 10 million Americans used the Internet when looking for a new place to live; 8 million when changing jobs; and 7 million when dealing with their own major illness or health condition, the survey said.

Not surprisingly, the increased use of Web-based information has also raised concerns, particularly in the medical community, about how people use the information. Over the last year, for instance, several medical groups have warned that, while researching a diagnosed illness may help family members better understand certain medical conditions, the Web shouldn’t be used as a diagnostic tool.

Nearly as many Americans – upward of 50 million – are turning to the Web as their primary news source as well, according to another recently released Pew Internet report (a PDF of the entire report can be viewed here).

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