Searching the internet for help with pain: adolescent search, coping, and medication behaviour

Ellen M Henderson, Edmund Keogh, Benjamin A Rosser, Christopher Eccleston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To explore a community sample of adolescents for engagement with online pain resources. To assess if the use of the Internet to search for health information correlated with measures of coping, risk taking, catastrophizing about pain, and engaging in the self-management of pain.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional online study of community-based adolescents (n = 105) recruited via schools to examine their use of the Internet to seek pain-related information.

METHODS: Adolescents completed questionnaires of pain coping, catastrophic thinking, risk-taking behaviour, and medication use. Descriptive analyses were undertaken on event rates of pertinent behaviours, principally on information seeking and pain management behaviour. Correlational analyses were undertaken between coping and information seeking, and medication use.

RESULTS: Few participants engaged in online pain information seeking. Those who did were more likely to be female and scored higher on medication use, catastrophizing, risk taking, and the total score on the Pain Coping Questionnaire.

CONCLUSIONS: Although adolescents are high users of the Internet, paradoxically they do not appear to use the Internet for information about pain and pain management. Further research should assess inhibitory and disinhibitory factors associated with information seeking about pain and chronic illness on the Internet.

STATEMENT OF CONTRIBUTION: What is already known on this subject? Internet use in adolescents is common, mobile, and displays a level of technical awareness unparalleled by adults. The internet is postulated in previous research to present a platform for the delivery of health care, particularly information to aid health decision-making for young people. What does this study add? This study explores how adolescents use the internet to look for health information, particularly on pain and where this falls in a general profile of coping with illness. Interestingly and counterintuitively, adolescents did not use the internet to look for health or pain information. We hypothesize that there may be something about information on pain management that does not readily transfer to the digital world in a way that is useful to adolescent users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-32
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

© 2012 The British Psychological Society.


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior/psychology
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Pain/psychology
  • Pain Management/methods
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self Care/methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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