Is the Internet replacing health professionals? A population survey on sources of medicines information among people with mental disorders

  • Marika Pohjanoksa-Mäntylä
  • J. Simon Bell
  • Satu Helakorpi
  • Ulla Närhi
  • Anne Pelkonen
  • Marja S. Airaksinen
Original Paper



People with mental disorders often report unmet medicine information needs and may search for information on medicines from sources including the Internet, telephone services, books and other written materials.


This study aimed to identify and describe the sources of medicines information used by people with and without mental disorders.


A cross sectional postal survey was mailed to a nationally representative sample (n = 5,000) of Finns aged 15–64 years in spring 2005. Completed responses were received from 3,287 people (response rate 66%), of whom 2,348 reported using one or more sources of medicines information during the past 12 months. Of those who reported one or more sources of medicines information, 10% (n = 228) reported being diagnosed with or treated for a mental disorder. The main outcome measures were the sources of medicines information used by people who did and did not report being diagnosed with or treated for a mental disorder.


Among respondents with and without a mental disorder, physicians (83 vs. 59%), pharmacists (56 vs. 49%) and patient information leaflets (53 vs. 43%) were the most common sources of medicines information. After adjusting for age, gender, level of education, working status and number of chronic diseases, respondents with mental disorders were more likely to use patient information leaflets (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.06–1.98) and the Internet (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.02–2.64) as sources of medicines information than respondents without mental disorders.


The results indicate that physicians and pharmacists are the most common sources of medicines information among people both with and without mental disorders. However, patient information leaflets and the Internet were more commonly used by people with mental disorders. There may be an opportunity for clinicians to better exploit these sources of medicines information when developing medicines information services for people with mental disorders.


Drug information services Internet Consumer health information Mental disorders European Union 


  1. 1.
    Aromaa E, Tolvanen A, Tuulari J, Wahlbeck K (2010) Attitudes towards people with mental disorders: the psychometric characteristics of a Finnish questionnaire. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 45:265–273PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bansil P, Keenan NL, Zlot AI, Gilliland JC (2006) Health-related information on the Web: results from the HealthStyles survey, 2002–2003. Prev Chronic Dis 3(2):A36PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bell JS, Whitehead P, Aslani P, Sacker S, Chen TF (2006) Design and implementation of an educational partnership between community pharmacists and consumer educators in mental health care. Am J Pharm Educ 70:28PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Berger M, Wagner TH, Baker LC (2005) Internet use and stigmatized illness. Soc Sci Med 61:1821–1827PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bonaccorso S, Sturchio JL (2003) What information do patients need about medicines? Perspectives from the pharmaceutical industry. BMJ 327:863–864Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bundorf MK, Wagner TH, Singer S, Baker L (2006) Who searches the internet for health information? Health Serv Res 41:819–836PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dinos S, Stevens S, Serfaty M, Weich S, King M (2004) Stigma: the feelings and experiences of 46 people with mental illness. Qualitative study. Br J Psychiatry 184:176–181PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 November 2001, OJ L 311/67.
  9. 9.
    Ferner RE, Aronson JK (2006) Communicating information about drug safety. BMJ 15:143–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fox S (2006) Online Health Search 2006. Most internet users start at a search engine when looking for health information online. Very few check the source and date of the information they find. Pew Internet & American Life Project 2006.
  11. 11.
    Garfield S, Francis SA, Smith FJ (2004) Building concordant relationships with patients starting antidepressant medication. Patient Educ Couns 55:241–246PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Happell B, Manias E, Roper C (2004) Wanting to be heard: mental health consumers’ experiences of information about medication. Int J Ment Health Nurs 13:242–248PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Haviland M, Pincus H, Thomas H (2003) Type of illness and use of the internet for health information. Psychiatr Serv 54:1198PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Health on the Net Foundation (2005) Analysis of 9th HON Survey of Health and Medical Internet Users Winter 2004–2005.
  15. 15.
    Helakorpi S, Uutela A. Prättälä R, Puska P (1999) Health behavior and health among the Finnish adult population, Spring 1999. KTL-National Public Health Insitute, Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion. Helsinki 1999.
  16. 16.
    Helakorpi S, Patja K, Prättälä R, Uutela A (2005) Health behavior and health among the Finnish adult population, Spring 2005. Helsinki, Finland: KTL-National Public Health Insitute, Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion. Helsinki 2005.
  17. 17.
    Hesse BW, Nelson DE, Kreps GL, Croyle RT, Arora NK, Rimer BK, Viswanath K (2005) Trust and sources of health information: the impact of the Internet and its implications for health care providers: findings from the first Health Information National Trends Survey. Arch Intern Med 165:2618–2624PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    High Level Pharmaceutical Forum. (2008) Final Conclusions and Recommendations of the High Level Pharmaceutical Forum 2008.
  19. 19.
    High Level Pharmaceutical Forum. (2007) Methodology of use of the core quality principles on information to patients 2007.
  20. 20.
    Kennedy JG (2003) What information do patients need about medicines? “Doc, tell me what I need to know”-a doctor’s perspective. BMJ 11:862–863Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Leach LS, Christensen H, Griffiths KM, Jorm AF, Mackinnon AJ (2007) Websites as a mode of delivering mental health information: perceptions from the Australian public. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 42:167–172PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Newby DA, Hill SR, Barker BJ (2001) Drug information for consumers: should it be disease or medication specific? Results of a community survey. Aust N Z J Public Health 25:564–570PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Närhi U, Helakorpi S (2007) Sources of medicine information in Finland. Health Policy 84:51–57PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Närhi U, Pohjanoksa-Mantylä M, Karjalainen A, Saari JK, Wahlroos H, Airaksinen MS, Bell JS (2008) The DARTS tool for assessing online medicines information. Pharm World Sci 30:898–906PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Närhi U (2006) Drug information for consumers and patients: a review of the research. Report 1/2006
  26. 26.
    Närhi U (2007) Sources of medicine information and their reliability evaluated by medicine users. Pharm World Sci 29:688–694PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Peterson G, Aslani P, Williams KA (2003) How do consumers search for and appraise information on medicines on the internet? A qualitative study using focus groups. J Med Internet Res 5:e33PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pirkola SP, Isometsä E, Suvisaari J, Aro H, Joukamaa M, Poikolainen K, Koskinen S, Aromaa A, Lönnqvist JK (2005) DSM-IV mood-, anxiety- and alcohol use disorders and their comorbidity in the Finnish general population–results from the Health 2000 Study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 40:1–10PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Pohjanoksa-Mäntylä MK, Kulovaara H, Bell JS, Enäkoski M, Airaksinen MS (2008) Email medication counseling services provided by Finnish community pharmacies. Ann Pharmacother 42:1782–1790PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Pohjanoksa-Mäntylä M, Saari JK, Närhi U, Karjalainen A, Pylkkänen K, Airaksinen MS, Bell JS (2009) How and why do people with depression access and utilize online drug information: a qualitative study. J Affect Disord 114:333–339PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Pohjanoksa-Mäntylä MK, Antila J, Eerikäinen S, Enäkoski M, Hannuksela O, Pietilä K, Airaksinen MS (2008) Utilization of a community pharmacy-operated national drug information call center in Finland. Res Social Adm Pharm 4:144–152PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Powell J, Clarke A (2006) Internet information-seeking in mental health: population survey. Br J Psychiatry 189:273–277PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Powell J, McCarthy N, Eysenbach G (2003) Cross-sectional survey of users of internet depression communities. BMC Psychiatry 3:19PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Rapport FL, Jerzembek GS, Doel MA, Jones A, Cella M, Lloyd KR (2009) Narrating uncertainties about treatment of mental health conditions. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol [Epub ahead of print]Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sleath B, Wurst K, Lowery T (2003) Drug information sources and antidepressant adherence. Community Ment Health J 39:359–368PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Sparado R (2003) Eurobarometer 58.0 European Union citizens and sources of information about health. European Opinion Research GroupThe European Union Research Group (EORG), Directorate-General Sanco 2003.
  37. 37.
    Tolonen H, Helakorpi S, Talala K, Helasoja V, Martelin T, Prättälä R (2006) 25-year trends and socio-demographic differences in response rates: Finnish adult health behaviour survey. Eur J Epidemiol 21:409–415PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Wagner TH, Baker LC, Bundorf MK, Singer S (2004) Use of the Internet for health information by the chronically ill. Prev Chronic Dis 1(4):A13PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Vainio K, Airaksinen M, Hyykky T, Enlund H (2002) Effect of therapeutic class on counseling in community pharmacies. Ann Pharmacother 36:781–785PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Young HN, Bell RA, Epstein RM, Feldman MD, Kravitz RL (2006) Types of information physicians provide when prescribing antidepressants. J Gen Intern Med 21:1172–1177PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Zehnder S, Bruppacher R, Hersberg K, Beutler M (2003) Drug information sources used by patients: a survey in Swiss community pharmacies with special focus on new information technologies. J Soc Adm Pharm 20:156–165Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marika Pohjanoksa-Mäntylä
    • 1
  • J. Simon Bell
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Satu Helakorpi
    • 4
  • Ulla Närhi
    • 5
  • Anne Pelkonen
    • 6
  • Marja S. Airaksinen
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Social Pharmacy, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Kuopio Research Centre of Geriatric CareUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland
  3. 3.Clinical Pharmacology and Geriatric Pharmacotherapy Unit, School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland
  4. 4.Department of Lifestyle and ParticipationNational Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)HelsinkiFinland
  5. 5.Department for Social and Health ServicesMinistry of Social Affairs and HealthHelsinkiFinland
  6. 6.Social Insurance InstitutionHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations