Patterns of online health searching 2002-2010: Implications for social capital, health disparities and the de-professionalization of medical knowledge

Timothy M. Hale, Melinda Goldner, Mike Stern, Patricia Drentea, Shelia R. Cotton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose - Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of individuals using the Internet, including for health purposes. Internet usage has increased from 46% of adults in 2000 to 79% in 2010. The purpose of this chapter is to examine changes in one type of Internet usage: online health searching. We examine the impact of traditional digital inequality factors on online health searching, and whether these patterns have changed over time.

Findings - Effects vary by inequality factor and time period examined. Despite the diffusion of the Internet, most of these gaps persist, and even strengthen, over time. Gender, age, and education gaps persist over time and appear to be increasing. An exception to this is the importance of broadband connection.

Research limitations - Since these data were collected, the use of mobile devices to access the Internet has increased. Research is needed on types of access and devices used for online health activities.

Implications - Larger scale inequalities play important roles in online health searching. Providing access and skills in evaluating online health information is needed for older and less educated groups. The results of this study have implications for the de-professionalization of medical knowledge.

Originality - This is the first study to examine digital inequality factors in online health information seeking over the breadth of this time period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-60
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Health Care
Volume32
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Digital inequality
  • Internet usage
  • Longitudinal analyses
  • Online health searching
  • Pew Internet & American Life Project
  • Social inequalities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)

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