Publication Details

Burns, P., Jones, S. C., Caputi, P. & Iverson, D. (2018). Are older Australians with chronic diseases online?. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 29 (1), 72-78.


Issue addressed: Health information can be easily and cheaply provided through the Internet. However, we do not know whether older adults, those people most likely to be living with a chronic disease, are online or whether they use the Internet to find health information. Methods: In order to establish the proportion of older Australians online, the impact of their current health status and chronic disease diagnosis on Internet usage and whether they use the Internet to search for health information, a paper-based survey was developed and mailed to 9000 older adults, resident in New South Wales, Australia (response rate = 46.8%). Results: Results showed that many older Australi ans are online (52.3%) and that the majority who are use the Internet to find health information (68.5%). Respondents were more likely to use the Internet if they reported good health. The presence of most chronic diseases reduced use of the Internet; however, this was not the case for those reporting asthma, anxiety or sleep apnoea. Internet use decreased as the number of reported co-morbidities increased. However, once online, self-perceived overall health and number of chronic diseases did not affect use of the Internet to find health information. Conclusions: This study is important as there is currently little information available about Internet use for health information by older Australians. Findings show that the provision of health information online has the potential to reinforce existing barriers created by the social determinants of health. So what?: There is a role for the Internet in providing preventative, health promotion information, to older adults, who are already online and younger, computer literate audiences. However, practitioners need to consider the fact that this mode of delivery reinforces existing social divides; requires people to have Internet access and be both literate and e-literate.

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