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J Med Internet Res. 2011 Nov 3;13(4):e90. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1880.

Effects of an eHealth literacy intervention for older adults.

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University of Maryland, College of Information Studies, College Park, MD 20740, United States.



Older adults generally have low health and computer literacies, making it challenging for them to function well in the eHealth era where technology is increasingly being used in health care. Little is known about effective interventions and strategies for improving the eHealth literacy of the older population.


The objective of this study was to examine the effects of a theory-driven eHealth literacy intervention for older adults.


The experimental design was a 2 × 2 mixed factorial design with learning method (collaborative; individualistic) as the between-participants variable and time of measurement (pre; post) as the within-participants variable. A total of 146 older adults aged 56-91 (mean 69.99, SD 8.12) participated in this study during February to May 2011. The intervention involved 2 weeks of learning about using the National Institutes of Health's website to access reliable health information. The intervention took place at public libraries. Participants were randomly assigned to either experimental condition (collaborative: n = 72; individualistic: n = 74).


Overall, participants' knowledge, skills, and eHealth literacy efficacy all improved significantly from pre to post intervention (P < .001 in all cases; effect sizes were >0.8 with statistical power of 1.00 even at the .01 level in all cases). When controlling for baseline differences, no significant main effect of the learning method was found on computer/Web knowledge, skills, or eHealth literacy efficacy. Thus, collaborative learning did not differ from individualistic learning in affecting the learning outcomes. No significant interaction effect of learning method and time of measurement was found. Group composition based on gender, familiarity with peers, or prior computer experience had no significant main or interaction effect on the learning outcomes. Regardless of the specific learning method used, participants had overwhelmingly positive attitudes toward the intervention and reported positive changes in participation in their own health care as a result of the intervention.


The findings provide strong evidence that the eHealth literacy intervention tested in this study, regardless of the specific learning method used, significantly improved knowledge, skills, and eHealth literacy efficacy from pre to post intervention, was positively perceived by participants, and led to positive changes in their own health care. Collaborative learning did not differ from individualistic learning in affecting the learning outcomes, suggesting the previously widely reported advantages of collaborative over individualistic learning may not be easily applied to the older population in informal settings, though several confounding factors might have contributed to this finding (ie, the largely inexperienced computer user composition of the study sample, potential instructor effect, and ceiling effect). Further research is necessary before a more firm conclusion can be drawn. These findings contribute to the literatures on adult learning, social interdependence theory, and health literacy.

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