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Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS)

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Dataset Summary

The Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) is a national health communication telephone survey conducted biennially by the National Cancer Institute.  HINTS was designed to systematically evaluate the public’s cancer-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors relevant to health communication. The survey collects nationally representative data about the American public’s need for, access to, and use of cancer-related information.  The interview is administered in English or Spanish and data from 2003, 2005 and 2007 are currently available for public use.

Expert comments  

[Note: taken from users’ comments on the HINTS website.]

HINTS is a powerful survey that is useful for understanding how adults 18 years and older use different communication channels, including the Internet, to obtain vital health information for themselves and their loved ones. Because of it repeated design, the survey provides scientists and practitioners with a continuing source of surveillance data from which to examine trends in health communication over time. The HINTS' unique attributes include its large sample size, its theory grounded design, and its potential for repeated data collection.

Dataset Details

Dataset owner   

HINTS was developed by the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch (HCIRB) of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) as an outcome of the National Cancer Institute's Extraordinary Opportunity in Cancer Communications.

Study and sample characteristics   

HINTS 2003, 2005, 2007 were fielded as Random Digit Dial telephone surveys, using a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview format. HINTS 2007 also included a printed questionnaire sent to a second random sample selected from a list of addresses from the US postal service.

HINTS 2003 Dataset
•    The full dataset (n=6,369) includes responders who completed the entire interview (n=6,149) plus those who completed the Health Communication and General Cancer Questions only (n=220).

HINTS 2005 Dataset
•    The full dataset (n=5,586) includes responders who completed the entire interview (n=5,394) plus those who completed the Health Communication and General Cancer Questions only (n=192).

HINTS 2007 Dataset
•    The full dataset of phone survey completers (n=4,092) includes responders who completed the entire interview (n=3,767) plus those who completed the Health Communication Questions only (n=325).
•    The full dataset of mail survey completers (n=3,582) includes responders who completed at least 80% of the survey (n=3,473) and those who only completed between 50% and 79% of the survey (n=109).

Major foci  

Data collected in the HINTS survey include:
•    Patient Demographics (race/ethnicity, birthplace, age, sex, marital status, education, income)
•    Health Status (health perception, mental health, health care coverage)
•    Health Services (use of healthcare services, communication with healthcare professionals, awareness of healthcare systems)
•    Social Networks (social support, community support)
•    Cancer (perceived risk, screening behavior, knowledge, concern)
•    Primary Cancer Risk Behaviors (nutrition and physical activity, tobacco use)
•    Mental Models of Cancer (cancer perceptions, risk perceptions)
•    Health Communication (history of cancer, media exposure, internet use, patient/provider communication)

Papers published  

Click here for a PubMed search for articles using this dataset.

Examples of papers published using HINTS data include:

Communication inequalities, social determinants, and intermittent smoking in the 2003 Health Information National Trends Survey.
Ackerson L.K, Viswanath K.
Prev Chronic Dis 2009, 6(2).

Information support for cancer survivors.
Hesse B.W., Arora N.K., Burke Beckjord E., Finney Rutten L.J.
Cancer. 2008, Jun 1;112(11 Suppl):2529-40.

Risk perceptions and worry about cancer: does gender make a difference?
McQueen A., Vernon S.W., Meissner H.I., Rakowski W. 
J Health Commun. 2008, Jan-Feb;13(1):56-79.

Frustrated and Confused: The American Public Rates its Cancer-Related Information-Seeking Experiences.
Arora NK, Hesse BW, Rimer BK, Viswanath K, Clayman ML, Croyle RT.
J Gen Intern Med 2008, 23(3): 223-228.

Cancer news coverage and information seeking.
Niederdeppe J., Frosch D.L., Hornik R.C.    
J Health Commun. 2008, Mar;13(2):181-99.

Dataset accessibility   

HINTS data are available for public use at no cost at

Help Desk  

For additional information about using HINTS data contact Richard Moser, Ph.D. (HINTS Data Coordinator)

Get a Brief Consultation (SGIM members only)
Members of SGIM may request a one-time consultation with an expert in this dataset, for example, to research ideas or to troubleshoot a problem or vexing question. Please click here for guidelines and the request process.