Role of health literacy in health-related information-seeking behavior online: Cross-sectional study

Hee Yun Lee, Seok Won Jin, Carrie Henning-Smith, Jongwook Lee, Jaegoo Lee

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Abstract

Background: The internet has emerged as a main venue of health information delivery and health-related activities. However, few studies have examined how health literacy determines online health-related behavior. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the current level of health-related information-seeking using the internet and how health literacy, access to technology, and sociodemographic characteristics impact health-related information-seeking behavior. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study through a survey with Minnesotan adults (N=614) to examine their health literacy, access to technology, and health-related information-seeking internet use. We used multivariate regression analysis to assess the relationship between health-related information-seeking on the internet and health literacy and access to technology, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. Results: Better health literacy (β=.35, SE 0.12) and greater access to technological devices (eg, mobile phone and computer or tablet PC; β=.06, SE 0.19) were both associated with more health-related information-seeking behavior on the internet after adjusting for all other sociodemographic characteristics. Possession of a graduate degree (β=.28, SE 0.07), female gender (β=.15, SE 0.05), poor health (β=.22, SE 0.06), participation in social groups (β=.13, SE 0.05), and having an annual health exam (β=.35, SE 0.12) were all associated with online health-related information-seeking. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that access to online health-related information is not uniformly distributed throughout the population, which may exacerbate disparities in health and health care. Research, policy, and practice attention are needed to address the disparities in access to health information as well as to ensure the quality of the information and improve health literacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14088
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 27 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project was jointly supported by the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Research Fund of the Endowed Academic Chair at the University of Alabama School of Social Work awarded to HL.

Publisher Copyright:
© Hee Yun Lee, Seok Won Jin, Carrie Henning-Smith, Jongwook Lee, Jaegoo Lee. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 27.01.2021. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

Keywords

  • Access
  • Digital divide
  • Health literacy
  • Internet
  • Technology

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