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J Med Internet Res. 2015 Aug 26;17(8):e209. doi: 10.2196/jmir.4548.

Who Uses the Internet as a Source of Nutrition and Dietary Information? An Australian Population Perspective.

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School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth, Australia.



The Internet contains a plethora of nutrition information. Health organizations are increasingly using the Internet to deliver population-wide health information and interventions. Effective interventions identify their target population and their needs; however, little is known about use of the Internet as a source of nutrition information.


The aim was to assess the change in prevalence and demographic characteristics of Western Australian adults accessing the Internet as a source of nutrition information and identify specific information needs.


Data were pooled from the Western Australian Department of Health's 3-yearly Nutrition Monitoring Survey Series telephone survey between 1995 and 2012 of 7044 participants aged 18 to 64 years. Outcome variables were the main sources of nutrition information used in the last year and yes/no responses to 4 suggestions to what would make it easier to eat a healthy diet. Sociodemographic variables were collected.


The proportion of respondents using the Internet for nutrition information increased from <1% in 1995-2001 to 9.1% in 2004 and 33.7% in 2012. Compared to 2004, logistic regression showed that the odds of using the Internet for this information increased significantly in 2009 (OR 2.84, 95% CI 2.07-3.88) and 2012 (OR 5.20, 95% CI 3.86-7.02, P<.001). Respondents using the Internet as a source were more likely to be female (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.05-1.60, P=.02), live in a metropolitan area (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.03-1.54, P=.03), born in countries other than Australia/UK/Ireland (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.07-1.85, P=.02), more educated (university: OR 2.46, 95% CI 1.77-3.42, P<.001), and were less likely to be older (55-64 years: OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.25-0.57, P<.001). The majority of respondents agreed the following information would assist them to make healthier choices: more ways to prepare healthy foods (72.0%, 95% CI 70.7-73.3), quicker ways to prepare healthy foods (79.0%, 95% CI 77.8-80.1), how to choose healthy foods (68.8%, 95% CI 67.5-70.1), and knowing more about cooking (54.7%, 95% CI 53.3-56.1). Those using the Internet for nutrition information were more likely than nonusers to want to know quicker ways to prepare healthy foods (83.0% vs 78.1%, P=.005) and information on choosing healthy foods (76.3% vs 67.3%, P<.001).


Use of the Internet as a main source of nutrition information has grown rapidly since 2004; one-third of Western Australian adults reported using the Internet for this purpose in 2012. Information on preparing healthy foods (ideas, quicker ways), choosing ingredients, and knowing more about cooking would make it easier to eat a healthy diet. For Internet users, emphasis should be on quicker ways and choosing ingredients. These finding have implications for policy makers and practitioners and suggest that traditional health promotion tactics should continue to be used to reach the broader population.


Internet; behavior, eating food habits; food, diet, Western; information seeking behavior; media, social; nutrition; public health practice

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