08:19 PM

More Americans Using The Web For Life's Critical Decisions

A survey of the U.S. online population found that 45%, or about 60 million Americans, had used the Internet to help them make big decisions.

For many Americans, the Internet has played a major role in helping them handle critical events, such as helping someone with a major illness, buying a home or sending a child to college, a research group said Wednesday.

A March 2005 survey of the U.S. online population found that 45 percent, or about 60 million Americans, had used the Internet to help them make big decisions or navigate major episodes in their lives in the last two years, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said.

In comparing the findings with a January 2002 study, Pew found a 54 percent increase in the number of adults who said the Internet helped them assist another person in coping with a major illness. Fully 40 percent more adults said the Web helped them deal with a major medical problem.

Other numbers reflecting the increasing importance of the Internet on people's lives included a more than 40 percent jump in the number of people who said the Web played a major role in finding a home, making major investment or financial decisions and deciding on a school or college for themselves or their children.

One possible reason for the increasing importance is the growth in broadband, which has made it easier for Americans to get information, Pew said. In January 2002, 17 percent of home Internet users, or 18 million, had broadband, compared with 50 percent, or 60 million, in March 2005.

Other possible contributors are better online content or more widely advertised Web sites, Pew said. In addition, online "word of mouth" might also be drawing others to the Web.

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