The Internet is awash with health sites – some 80% of American Internet users look up health issues online. As we did with our Automotive Digital Brand Exposure Index, we at Swoop wanted to look at what, exactly, people are reading about in order to get better insight into the daily health concerns of North American Internet users.

Top Health-Related Categories

To determine what people are interested in, we took the top search queries from our network of health publishers, put them into broad categories, and compared them. The numbers we look at are a reflection of how many pages about a topic are consumed, and by how many users, giving us a combination of content consumed and end-user interest. Here are the top categories getting interest:

Most-discussed-online health topics - q2 2016

Cancer is the most-read-about health condition, according to our data, followed by heart health, sexual health, skin conditions and cold/flu. It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the top two causes of death in the United States are the two most-consumed topics for health sites. We delved a little further into cancer to see what types of cancer were at the top of people’s minds:

Most-discussed cancer types - Q2 2016

Skin cancer (including queries for “melanoma”) is by far the most-read-about form of cancer, which is the most visible topic across our network of digital health publications. Following skin cancer is breast, ovarian and prostate.

How Does Visibility Match Up With Actual Condition Populations?

There’s always something of a disconnect between how widely-discussed something is and how many people actually come in contact with it. A prime example of this is the Zika virus – look at how interest in Mad Cow West Nile SARS H1N1 Zika spiked and swiftly disappeared over the course of a 13-week stretch of 2015, all for a disease that has infected less than three thousand Americans to date:

Digital interest in the Zika virus by week

This is why we take visibility and compare it to the number of people actually diagnosed with said condition. This metric shows just how much interest is created by a condition versus the number of people who actually have said condition.

The result is our Visibility to Population index – the further to the right, the more visible a condition is compared to its population; the further left, the less visible, meaning lots of people suffer from it but fewer people discuss it.

Online interest in health topic vs. population - Q2 2016

As we can see, there’s much less content consumption per individual sufferer of allergies, kidney issues, asthma and GERD than would be expected. Cancer, mental health and heart health over-index on how much conversation there is per actual case.

Advertising Spend vs. Visibility

How do health advertisers and their digital investment line up with condition content consumption over a particular health category? After pulling together stats on how much major pharmaceutical advertisers spend on different categories, we were able to come up with a look – the higher the pulse is, the more digital visibility outstrips ad spend:

Online interest in health topic vs. ad money spent - Q2 2016

It’s interesting to see how dramatically sexual health dominates this particular metric. This tells us two things: one, health-care advertisers don’t invest significantly in sexual health content online; and two, sexual health is read about very much (as noted before, it’s the 3rd-most-visible health category). A significant opportunity appears to exist for digital health-care advertisers to engage a comparatively underserved audience interested in sexual health concerns.

Advertising Spend vs. Patients

So, we have seen how advertising spend matches with online visibility, and we have seen how visibility matches with actual patients. The last piece of the puzzle, obviously, is to check out how digital ad spend matches up with the number of actual patients:

Ad money spent on health topics vs. population - Q2 2016

Cancer, in addition to being the most-visible and most-talked-about health category, also is by far and away the category that gets the most attention per individual from advertisers. Once again, sexual health falls down at the bottom of the digital ad spend bucket – less advertising money is spent on sexual health per individual than any other health category we looked at.

Conclusion: Consistency the key

The top conditions people read about are widespread issues – cancer, heart health, influenza, etc. People will briefly read anything that comes up about flash-in-the-pan issues like Zika, but there’s a certain consistency to health issues that drive interest, and it’s health issues that affect us all, either directly or someone we know.

Top 100 Conditions

1 Cancer
2 Heart Health
3 Sexual Health
4 Flu
5 GERD/Acid Reflux
6 Migraine/Headache
7 Diabetes
8 Mental Health
9 Skin Disorders/Psoriasis
10 Lice
11 Arthritis
12 Urinary Tract/Yeast Infection
13 Aging
14 Infections
15 Asthma/COPD
16 Acne
17 Kidney Problems
18 Allergies
19 Fibromyalgia
20 Mono
21 Lupus
22 Hernia
23 Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Ibs
24 Shingles
25 Pain Management
26 Endometriosis
27 Food Poisoning
28 Bronchitis
30 Gout
31 Sleep Disorders
32 Pms/Pre Menstrual Syndrome
33 Alternative Medicine
34 Staph Infection/Sepsis
35 Poison Ivy
36 Hypothyroidism
37 Gastroenteritis
38 Multiple Sclerosis
39 Appendicitis
40 Strep Throat
41 Lyme Disease
42 Pcos (Polycystic ovary syndrome)
43 Tendinitis
44 Leukemia
45 Pneumonia
46 Hemorrhoids
47 Bursitis
48 Thyroid Disorders
49 Neuropathy
50 Chronic Fatigue
51 Hepatitis
52 Diverticulitis
53 Obesity
54 Eczema
55 Gallstones
56 Graves Disease
57 Hyperthyroidism
58 Fibroids
59 Zika
60 Blood In Urine/Hematuria
61 Burns
62 Uterine Fibroids
63 Carpal Tunnel
64 Meningitis
65 Ulcerative Colitis
66 Plantar Warts
67 Quit Smoking
68 Pink Eye
69 Rosacea
70 Incontinence
71 Thrombocytopenia
72 Ingrown Toenail
73 Perimenopause
74 Jaundice
75 Lactose Intolerance
76 Sinusitis
77 Laryngitis
78 Ear Infections
79 Multiple Myeloma
80 Vaginitis
81 Thyroid Nodules
82 Blisters
83 Spider Bites
84 Pelvic Pain
85 Autism
86 Oral Health
87 Overactive Bladder
88 Cystic Fibrosis
89 Bad Breath
90 Shin Splints
91 Celiac Disease
92 Varicose Veins
93 Blood Clots
94 Hiccups
95 Myositis
96 Ringworm
97 Epilepsy
98 Restless Legs Syndrome
99 Bone Spurs
100 Bed Bugs