eHealth literacy: a marker for "digital divide" in health information

Efrat Neter, Esther Brainin

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7175/rhc.v3i3.281

Abstract

eHealth literacy is defined as the use of emerging information and communications technology to improve or enable health and health care. The study examined whether literacy disparities are diminished or enhanced in the search for health information on the Internet.

We used a countrywide representative random-digital-dial telephone household survey of the Israeli adult population (18 years and older, N = 4286).

Respondents who were highly eHealth literate tended to be younger and more educated than their less eHealth-literate counterparts. They were also more active consumers of all types of information on the Internet, used more search strategies, and scrutinized information more carefully than did the less eHealth-literate respondents. Finally, respondents who were highly eHealth literate gained more positive outcomes from the information search in terms of cognitive, instrumental (self-management of health care needs, health behaviors, and better use of health insurance), and interpersonal (interacting with their physician) gains.

The association of eHealth literacy with background attributes indicates that the Internet reinforces existing social differences. The more comprehensive and sophisticated use of the Internet and the subsequent increased gains among the high eHealth literate create new inequalities in the domain of digital health information.

Keywords

eHealth literacy; Digital literacy; Digital divide; Health information search; Internet

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