JMIR Formative Research
confidence, health information access, health information seeking, health information sources, internet, health information
BACKGROUND: Confidence in health information access is a measure of the perceived ability to obtain health information. One's beliefs or perceived ability to access health information is particularly important in understanding trends in health care access. Previous literature has found that access to health information is lowest among society's most vulnerable population groups. These groups include older, less educated, and low-income populations. While health confidence has previously been used as a scale to measure health outcomes, additional research is needed describing the demographic factors associated with users' confidence in health information access. This may be a key component of health information seeking that affects beneficial health outcomes such as prevention and treatment.
OBJECTIVE: This study examines the demographic factors associated with the levels of confidence in using the internet to access health information for adults 18 years and older in the United States.
METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, secondary data from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 5, Cycle 3 (2019) were analyzed (N=5374). An ordinal regression stratified by internet use was used to determine the association between demographic characteristics and level of confidence in health information access.
RESULTS: When the internet is the primary source for health information, high school graduates (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 0.58, 95% CI 0.37-0.89) compared to those with a college degree or more had significantly lower odds of being confident in obtaining health information. In addition, non-Hispanic Asian participants (AOR 0.44, 95% CI 0.24-0.82) compared to non-Hispanic White participants, male participants (AOR 0.72, 95% CI 0.54-0.97) compared to female participants, and those who made between US $20,000-$35,000 annually (AOR 0.55, 95% CI 0.31-0.98) compared to those who made US $75,000 or more annually had significantly lower odds of being confident in obtaining health information via the internet. Moreover, when the internet is the primary source for health information, those with health insurance had significantly higher odds of being confident in obtaining health information (AOR 2.91, 95% CI 1.58-5.34) compared to those who do not have health insurance. Lastly, a significant association was observed between confidence in health information access and primary health information source and frequency of visiting a health care provider.
CONCLUSIONS: Confidence in accessing health information can differ by individual demographics. Accessing health-related information from the internet has become increasingly more common and can provide insight into health information-seeking behaviors. Further exploration of these factors can inform the science of health education by providing deeper insight into improving access to health information for vulnerable populations.
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Van Heel, Kasi Lou; Nelson, Anna; Handysides, Daniel; and Shah, Huma, "The Factors Associated With Confidence in Using the Internet to Access Health Information: Cross-sectional Data Analysis." (2023). HPD Articles. 379.
©Kasi Lou Van Heel, Anna Nelson, Daniel Handysides, Huma Shah.