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J Med Internet Res. 2009 Feb 20;11(1):e4. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1035.

Using the internet for health-related activities: findings from a national probability sample.

Author information

1
Department of Public and Community Health, Public Health Informatics Research Laboratory, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-2611, USA. atkinson@umd.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

eHealth tools on the Internet have the potential to help people manage their health and health care. However, little is known about the distribution and use of different kinds of eHealth tools across the population or within population subgroups.

OBJECTIVE:

The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence and predictors of participation in specific online health-related activities.

METHODS:

A secondary data analysis of the National Cancer Institute's Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 2005 was conducted to study three online behaviors among Internet users (n = 3244): searching for health information for oneself, participating in a support group for those with similar health or medical conditions, and purchasing medicine or vitamins.

RESULTS:

A total of 58% of Internet users reported searching for health information for themselves, 3.8% used online support groups, and 12.8% bought medicine or vitamins online in the past year. Multivariate analysis found that those seeking health information were more likely to be women (OR = 2.23, 95% CI = 1.60, 3.09), have cable or satellite Internet connections (OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.22, 2.45) or DSL connections (OR = 1.94, 95% CI = 1.36, 2.76), have Internet access from work (OR = 2.43, 95% CI = 1.27, 4.67) or from home and work (OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.31, 2.30), and report more hours of weekday Internet use (OR = 4.12, 95% CI = 2.41, 7.07). Those with a high school education or less (OR = 0.44, 95% CI = 0.31, 0.63) and those with some college (OR = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.49, 0.89) were less likely to search for health information. Online support groups were more likely to be used by those with "fair" health (OR = 3.28, 95% CI = 1.21, 8.92) and "poor" health (OR = 5.98, 95% CI = 1.49, 24.07) and those with lower incomes (OR = 2.64, 95% CI = 1.09, 6.41) and less likely to be used by those with Internet access both at home and work (OR = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.35, 0.90). Those who were age 35-49 (OR = 2.16, 95% CI = 1.43, 3.26), age 50-64 (OR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.53, 3.89), and age 65-74 (OR = 2.18, 95% CI = 1.30, 3.67) and those who were married (OR = 1.93, 95% CI = 1.13, 3.30) were more likely to purchase medicine or vitamins online.

CONCLUSIONS:

The Internet was most widely used as a health information resource, with less participation in the purchase of medicine and vitamins and in online support groups. Results suggest that modifying survey questions to better capture forms of online support and medications purchased could provide greater understanding of the nature of participation in these activities.

PMID:
19275980
PMCID:
PMC2762768
DOI:
10.2196/jmir.1035
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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