People who look up their illnesses online don't really mistrust their doctors, they do that just to keep themselves involved in their treatment, says a new study.

"We found that mistrust was not a significant predictor of people going online for health information prior to their visit. This was somewhat surprising and suggests that doctors need not be defensive when their patients come to their appointments armed with information taken from the Internet," said Xinyi Hu, who co-authored the study, in a UC Davis news release.

The study involved about 500 patients who were members of online health support groups. Researchers surveyed these people and found that almost 40 percent had taken a print-out of the information to discuss it with their doctor, 70 percent were planning talk to their doctors about the information they found on the internet and about 50 percent said that they'd make at least one request on the basis of information from the internet.

"The Internet has become a mainstream source of information about health and other issues. Many people go online to get information when they anticipate a challenge in their life. It makes sense that they would do the same when dealing with a health issue," Hu said.

People who go online to seek information about health related topics are also the ones who consult their friends and other media. These patients are active information-seekers by nature.

A study published in 2009 looked at this information seeking behavior through the physicians' perspective. They had found that more than 60 percent of physicians surveyed felt that this behavior damaged time-management of the visit, more than 54 percent said that it made patients over concerned about their health, and 42 percent said that the information that they found was irrelevant to their present condition.

"With the growth of online support groups, physicians need to be aware that many of their patients will be joining and interacting with these groups. These patients tend to be very active health-information seekers, making use of both traditional and new media," the study said.

Last year, there were more than 12,000 groups listed on Yahoo! Groups Health and Wellness directory, the news release said.

"As a practicing physician, these results provide some degree of reassurance. The results mean that patients are not turning to the Internet out of mistrust; more likely, Internet users are curious information seekers who are just trying to learn as much as they can before their visit," said co-author Richard L. Kravitz, a UC Davis Health System professor of internal medicine.

The study was published in the Journal of Health Communication.