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Publication Detail
Seeking health-related information and support online – does it differ as a function of engagement in risky health behaviours? Evidence from the Health Information National Trends Survey
Abstract
Background: The Internet is an important tool to deliver health behaviour interventions; yet, little is known about Internet access and use of health-related information, or support, by the intended intervention recipients. Objective: To evaluate whether health-related Internet use differed as a function of common health behaviours (excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, low fruit/vegetable intake, inactive/sedentary lifestyle, unprotected sun exposure or obesity). Methods: Socio-demographic, health behaviour characteristics and information on Internet access and use were assessed in the nationally representative US Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 4. Data from 3,911 participants collated in 2011/12 were included. Results: Of the 78.2% (95%CI 76.1-80.1) of participants who had ever accessed the Internet, approximately three-quarters (78.2%, 95%CI 75.4-80.7) had obtained health-related information online last year. About half had used the Internet as the first source of health-related information (47.8%, 95%CI 44.8-50.7) or to access behavioural support (56.9%, 95%CI 53.7-60.0) in the last year. Adjusting for socio-demographic determinants of going online (being younger, white, female, with at least college education) revealed few differences in Internet access and use between health-risk behaviours. Participants with inadequate sun protection were less likely to access the Internet (OR 0.59, 95%CI 0.04-0.88) and those with low fruit/vegetable intake were less likely to have gone online to obtain health-related information last year (OR 0.60, 95%CI 0.45-0.80). Smokers in particular were likely to use the Internet to obtain behavioural support (OR 1.90, 95%CI 1.35-2.68). Conclusions: Internet access and use to obtain health-related information and support is wide-spread and mostly independent of engagement in various health-risk behaviours. However, those with low fruit/vegetable intake or inadequate sun-protective behaviours may be more difficult to reach with Internet-based interventions. In addition, when developing online health promotions, relevant socio-demographic determinants of Internet use need to be targeted to maximise their impact.
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