Study: Age, sex, socioeconomic status major factors in eHealth use

Socioeconomic status, age and sex are some of the biggest predictors when it comes to U.S. residents' use of the Internet for healthcare. For instance, adults who are of lower socioeconomic status, older and male are some of the least likely people to engage in their healthcare activities online, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study's researchers used data from the National Cancer Institute's 2012 Health Information National Trends Survey. With that information, they then used variable logistic regression to model the odds that education and income, race/ethnicity, age and sex predicted eHealth usage among adults.

They found that overall eHealth usage by U.S. adults is low, with only about 19 percent of adults engaging in activities like emailing providers; 19 percent tracking their health information online; and 17.6 percent buying medicine online.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 34 had more than twice the odds of engaging in online provider searches compared to the oldest group, ages 65 years and older.

In support of this is a warning from researches about a possible digital divide between the elderly, who can access their records online and those who cannot, according to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine. While the elderly increasingly are using the Web for health information, those with functional impairments are falling behind.

The JMIR study also showed that those with the lowest levels of education--people who have a high school degree or less--are unlikely to use the Web to either search for a healthcare provider or to go online to communicate with a doctor or doctor's office.

However, people with lower education and lower income were more likely to use social media sites, such as Facebook, to read or share information about medical topics.

Patients who use the Internet more frequently are more likely to embrace patient-centered healthcare efforts and participate in their own care, according to a study published last summer in JMIR.

And when it comes to using the Internet to fill out applications for health programs, those who had less education needed more help and wanted to be able to interact with someone in person, according to research published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

To learn more:
- read the study

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