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Some 65% of US adults say they cannot live without internet access, and nearly half of women (46%, vs. 30% of men) would rather give up sex for two weeks than give up the web for the same amount of time, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Intel Corporation.

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The study, “Internet Reliance in Today’s Economy” found that a nearly unanimous majority of US adults view internet access essential to daily life in today’s economic climate, and more than nine in 10 believe the internet has made their life better.

Most US adults also identify the internet as a key tool in today’s economy for managing personal finances, finding discounts and the best deals while shopping online, and many rate access to the Internet as indispensable compared with other discretionary items, such as dining out, shopping for clothes and gym memberships.

Internet More Important than Sex, TV, Discretionary Items

Nearly half of women (46%) and 30% of men would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up Internet access for the same amount of time, the study found. In terms of age differences, older women age 35-44 (52%) and women age 18-34 (49%) were more likely than average to say they would give up sex. Among men, 39% of those age 18-34 said the same.

An even higher number of adult women (61%) would choose to give up watching TV for 2 weeks instead of giving up access to the Internet for only 1 week. More than half of all US adults (58%), both male and female, agree.

Other age groups more likely than average to say they’d give up TV for two weeks before giving up the internet for one: Adults age 18-34 (67%); adults age 35-44 (57%); and adults age 45+ (52%).

When asked to rate certain other discretionary items on a scale of 1 (completely expendable) to 5 (cannot live without it), having internet access ranks highest among the items listed, with 65% of US adults reporting they cannot live without it. The following items and activities were ranked below Internet access in importance:

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  • Cable television subscriptions (39%)
  • Dining out (20%)
  • Shopping for clothes (18%)
  • Gym membership (10%)

Internet Access Essential in Today’s Economic Climate

In addition to valuing intenet access highly, a nearly unanimous number (95%) of adults feel that it is very important, important or somewhat important for people to have devices that allow them to access the Internet, such as laptops, smartphones or other mobile internet devices. A majority (82%) agree that such Internet-enabled devices help them stay up to date real-time on the state of the economy.

Internet Helps Cut Costs

The internet also has proven to be an effective way to manage finances and cut costs. Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) of adults say that Internet access has helped them save money. Of these adults:

  • 84% have saved money by comparing prices online and finding the best deals before making purchase decisions.
  • 66% have saved money simply by shopping online.
  • 65% percent say the Internet has helped them save money by allowing them to search for coupons, discounts or special Internet promotions.

Internet Makes Life Better Overall

Nine of 10 U.S. adults (91%) report that the ability to access the Internet has improved at least one aspect of their lives. Within this group:

  • 78% say their ability to stay in touch with friends and family has improved.
  • 68% percent say they are able to shop more effectively.
  • 47% say they are able to manage their finances better because of the Internet through activities such as online banking and paying bills.

About the survey: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Intel from Nov. 18-20 among 2,119 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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