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Fixated on health sites? Join the cyberchondriacs

Number of adults seeking health information on the Web has soared to about 160 million in 2006--a 37 percent rise over two years.

Worried about that niggling pain in your arm? Concerned about those persistent headaches? If you've searched online for information about medical woes you're not alone.

The number of so-called cyberchondriacs seeking health information on the Web has soared to about 160 million in 2006--a 37 percent rise over two years, according a new poll.

"Cyberchondriacs now represent 84 percent of all online adults, up from last year's 80 percent, and 72 percent in 2005," Harris Interactive, the market research firm that conducted the survey, said in a statement.

"The reasons for this increase are that the total number of Internet users has increased somewhat and the percent of people online who have looked for information has increased as well," it added.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,010 adults conducted earlier this month showed cyberchondriacs on average search the Internet almost six times per month for health information and the majority find what they are looking for.

Eighty-six percent of people questioned in the poll said the health information they found online was reliable, which was a slight drop from the previous year when 90 percent were satisfied with the data.

"Cyberchondriacs are not only using the Internet to educate themselves, many are also using it to assist in their conversation with their physicians," the company added.

Nearly 60 percent of people who found what they were looking for on the Internet discussed the information with their doctors at least once in the last year, according to the poll.