NEW YORK (AP) -- When Kathleen Hargan needs information about ailments and diseases, she turns to the Internet. When she wants to learn more about the stock market, she also goes online.
You might say that using the Internet as the first stop for research is typical among today's younger Americans, the ones more comfortable with technology than libraries.
But Hargan belongs to the generation of baby boomers, ranging in age from 38 to 56 -- the ones who grew up with only libraries for research.
And perhaps surprisingly, boomers are actually more enthusiastic than younger Americans when it comes to using the Internet for health care and finances, as well as government and religious information.
''They might not have been the very first to the party, but baby boomers were in the next wave of enthusiasts in many respects,'' said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
''Their learning curve was pretty quick so once they got online, they were doing some things at the same level and even greater level than the younger Americans.''
Boomers are still less likely to be online than the 18-29 age group. But according to data analyzed by Pew for The Associated Press, those who are on the Internet performed several tasks more frequently:
--Online boomers were more likely to send or receive e-mail on a given day: 54 percent versus 49 percent of younger Americans who are wired.
--Sixty-six percent of online boomers have looked up health information online, compared with 54 percent for younger users.
--Boomers were more likely to visit online support groups for specific medical conditions and personal situations: 55 percent versus 36 percent.
--Half of online boomers have used the Internet for financial information, compared with 28 percent for the younger group.
--Fifteen percent of wired boomers have traded stocks or bonds online, while only 9 percent of younger Americans have.
--Boomers were also more likely to have gotten religious and spiritual information over the Internet and used government Web sites.
Rainie said much of the contrast reflects differences in passions and interests offline. Boomers are more likely to have or know people who have diseases; they are more likely to have money to invest or be more concerned about retirement funds.
Pew found a few areas where boomers trailed younger Americans: sports, job, housing and genealogy searches and creating Web content such as online diaries.
Again, Rainie said, the findings reflect offline interests -- younger Americans, for instance, move and change jobs more often.
Areas where the two groups were even include getting news, buying products, participating in online auctions and checking the weather.
Hargan, 54, a child welfare worker in Oakland, Calif., said the increased use among online boomers for some types of research might reflect the fact that older Americans know what it's like not to have the Internet.
''My generation, we were going to college when the only way to get information was to go to a library and spend hours digging it up,'' she said. ''For myself, I'm an information junkie, and it's just phenomenal to me, the difference.''
Perhaps the younger generation just take the Internet resources for granted, Hargan said.
Craig Blasko, 49, a Cleveland-based transportation planner with Schneider National Inc., said younger Americans also lack patience.
His 25-year-old son, for instance, ''can't be bothered. E-mail is too much trouble,'' Blasko said.
While Blasko finds it easy to get government, financial and other information off the Web, his adult children ''don't want to wait,'' he said.
''They don't want to put the time and effort into doing the research,'' Blasko said. ''It's easier to have Dad look it up.''
Anick Jesdanun can be reached at netwriter(at)ap.org
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