As the largest health information property in the United States, Healthline has its finger on the pulse of consumer health behavior and how that behavior changes over time. The COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably altered online media consumption habits and daily health behaviors. We’ve carefully monitored and analyzed our internal data to bring you the following information.
What day is today?
For years, people consumed health information in a highly predictable pattern: Consumer behavior peaked on Mondays and Tuesdays, slowly declined throughout the week, and then rose again on Sunday. But the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted this pattern completely.
Our statistics reveal that starting in early March, consumers wanted more health information, and they wanted it every day of the week. Traffic was up across the board, and typical low-traffic days like Friday and Saturday began to match typical high-traffic days like Monday and Tuesday. The data supports the feeling that the days have begun to blur together as consumers observe stay-at-home orders.
Mobile traffic has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that users are consuming more information away from their desktops and laptops. Traffic from mobile devices moved up 1.5% — from 79% of our traffic before March to 80.54% in April, which equates to an additional 3.5 million mobile visits.
Health Behavior Shifts
News of the COVID-19 pandemic sparked immediate changes in traffic to the condition sections of Healthline, especially for people with a higher risk of being immunocompromised. Traffic for autoimmune diseases and asthma each spiked 42%, and COPD content was up 27%. At the same time, people were less interested in more general lifestyle areas such as cholesterol (-45%) and diets (-19%).
While there was an initial boost toward everything COVID-19 related in early March — and away from everything else, as seen in the dip in the graph — this has changed in recent weeks. Consumers, especially those managing chronic conditions, still have questions and concerns about their health that go beyond COVID-19. In fact, traffic for this type of content is actually up from its pre-COVID-19 norm by 15%.
Immune boosting. Consumer interest drove an early climb in information about building a stronger immune system. However, users have moved away from this content in recent weeks as the surge of cases has begun to level out and better prevention techniques have been disseminated.
Weight loss, diet, and exercise. Traffic to this type of content first dropped as users focused on information specific to COVID-19. But interest in weight loss and exercise has returned with vigor as people under stay-at-home orders have started investigating how to get their exercise fix.
Other observations. COVID-19 has intensified traffic to condition areas like sleep and anxiety. Our data show that people are sleeping worse and seeking anxiety remedies more often. We’ve also seen a surge in traffic to content about back pain, most likely attributable to the millions of people sitting for long periods of time and in less ergonomic positions as they work from home.
Health at home
Home remedies. By necessity, more consumers have taken their health into their own hands. For example, this graph shows traffic for toothache home remedies. Yikes, that’s a lot of tooth pain!
Do-it-yourself. Because of stay-at-home restrictions and product supply limitations, consumers have been much more curious about how to make their own products at home. We’ve observed a massive increase in people looking for information about DIY hand sanitizer and aloe vera (up 425%), soaps (up 650%), and at-home beauty treatments such as scrubs, masks, and waxing (up a collective 131%).
Let’s get cooking. A stay-at-home world has brought people back to the kitchen in a big way. Consumers are searching for new recipes to try, as well as ingredient substitutions, given that grocery stores nationwide have not been able to keep up with supply for certain in-demand ingredients. The big hit? As bread baking exploded as a popular quarantine hobby, we saw traffic for yeast and other ingredient substitutes rise dramatically (no pun intended).
COVID-19 has not only affected the way people seek information but has also sparked new behaviors — and new levels of creativity. We will continue to see shifts in consumer behavior and information consumption in the weeks and months to come as society navigates its new normal. Arm yourself with insights by listening to your audience, understanding their changing mindsets, and collaborating with partners that can help move you from confusion to clarity.