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Gender-Specific Determinants and Patterns of Online Health Information Seeking: Results From a Representative German Health Survey

Gender-Specific Determinants and Patterns of Online Health Information Seeking: Results From a Representative German Health Survey

Journal of Medical Internet Research 19(4): E92

Online health information-seeking behavior (OHISB) is currently a widespread and common behavior that has been described as an important prerequisite of empowerment and health literacy. Although demographic factors such as socioeconomic status (SES), age, and gender have been identified as important determinants of OHISB, research is limited regarding the gender-specific motivational determinants of OHISB and differences between women and men in the use of online resources for health information purposes. The aim of this study was to identify gender-specific determinants and patterns of OHISB by analyzing data from a representative German sample of adults (N=1728) with special attention to access and frequency of use as well as topics and sources of OHISB. We employed a 2-step analysis, that is, after exploring differences between users and nonusers of online health information using logistic regression models, we highlighted gender-specific determinants of the frequency of OHISB by applying zero-truncated negative binomial models. Age (odds ratio, OR for females=0.97, 95% CI 0.96-0.99) and degree of satisfaction with one's general practitioner (GP) (OR for males=0.73, 95% CI 0.57-0.92) were gender-specific determinants of access to OHISB. Regarding the frequency of OHISB, daily Internet use (incidence rate ratio, IRR=1.67, 95% CI 1.19-2.33) and a strong interest in health topics (IRR=1.45, 95% CI 1.19-1.77) were revealed to be more important predictors than SES (IRR for high SES=1.25, 95% CI 0.91-1.73). Users indicate that the Internet seems to be capable of providing a valuable source of informational support and patient empowerment. Increasing the potential value of the Internet as a source for health literacy and patient empowerment requires need-oriented and gender-specific health communication efforts, media, and information strategies.

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Accession: 059763041

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PMID: 28377367

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