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Correlation Between eHealth Literacy and Health Literacy Using the eHealth Literacy Scale and Real-Life Experiences in the Health Sector as a Proxy Measure of Functional Health Literacy: Cross-Sectional Web-Based Survey

Correlation Between eHealth Literacy and Health Literacy Using the eHealth Literacy Scale and Real-Life Experiences in the Health Sector as a Proxy Measure of Functional Health Literacy: Cross-Sectional Web-Based Survey

Journal of Medical Internet Research 20(10): E281

The eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS) is a tool for the self-assessment of perceived comfort and skills in using the internet as a source for health-related information. Although evidence exists of the reliability and construct and structural validity of the scale, there is a lack of evidence in relation to what is proposed by Norman and Skinner in their theoretical lily model of eHealth literacy; in particular it is not clear whether having a higher level of health literacy can positively influence electronic health (eHealth) literacy as measured by the eHEALS. Our study aim was to assess whether real-life experiences from studying or working in the health field, as a proxy of higher functional health literacy, correlate with self-referred eHealth literacy as measured by the eHEALS. A Web-based survey was conducted among adults living in Northeast Italy using an Italian version of the eHEALS (IT-eHEALS). In order to be able to measure the effect of higher functional health literacy on eHealth literacy, we divided our sample into two groups, respectively characterized by studying or working experience in the health sector and by lack thereof. Mean differences between eHEALS were calculated using t test and effect size evaluated using Cohen d. To ensure the validity of the IT-eHEALS, we evaluated its psychometric properties (internal consistency and dimensionality) and construct validity (by evaluating its correlation with respondents age, gender, educational attainment, self-rated health, use of internet for health-related purposes, and working status). A total of 868 respondents that completed the IT-eHEALS were included for analysis, of which 259 had working or studying experience in the health field. Mean (SD) eHEALS total score was 28.2 (6.2) for the whole sample, with statistically significant differences (P<.001) between the two groups, with the higher health literate group scoring significantly better (31.9 (5.9) vs 26.7 (5.6), respectively), with a standardized mean difference (Cohen d) of 0.9. Interestingly, we found a weak, yet significant, correlation between eHealth literacy and respondent characteristics for the higher health literate group only, as measured by positive Spearman correlation coefficients for age (0.11, P=.001), educational attainment (0.19, P=.002) and self-rated health (0.14, P=.024). Also, in line with current literature, correlation of eHEALS score with frequency of internet use for health-related purposes was significant for both groups (0.32, P<.001 and 0.15, P<.001 for higher and lower health literacy group, respectively). In our study we could not find any difference related to gender, while a significant difference for working status was only present when considering the sample as a whole (P=.03). Our study demonstrates a sizeable effect of higher levels of functional health literacy on the eHEALS score, corroborating what was initially proposed by Norman and Skinner in the lily model of eHealth literacy.

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Accession: 065741197

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PMID: 30381283

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