Older adults least likely to use the Internet
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Older adults least likely to use the Internet

Researchers at Public Health Management Corporation’s (PHMC) Community Health Data Base (CHDB) determined from its 2010 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey data that one in five SEPA adults, or 20%, that they never use the Internet, representing approximately 563,000 adults.

This is significant because, when it comes to finding information about personal health, more and more Americans are turning to the Internet as a valuable tool. According to a 2010 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, eight out of 10  Internet users have looked online for health information. Through Internet searches, consumers can access information on conditions, disease prevention, nutrition, physicians and more.

"Our results parallel those found in national data," says Rose Malinowski Weingartner, research associate at CHDB. "Internet usage and health may seem unrelated, but as more and more people use it to make informed decisions about health, it’s crucial that we study who exactly has access to this tool."

The study found that older adults are more likely than younger adults to say they never used the Internet:

° 7%  of adults ages18-39 stated that they had never used the Internet;

° 11% of adults ages 40-49 stated that they had never used the Internet;

° 17% of adults ages 50-59 stated that they had never used the Internet;

° 30% of adults ages 60-74 stated that they had never used the Internet;

° 65% of adults 75and older stated that they had never used the Internet

Because older adults were much more likely to be in the group who indicated they never used the Internet, the study examined the demographic and health profiles of older adults, contrasting those who did and who did not use the Internet. The survey showed a connection between Internet usage and health status. Older adults who never use the Internet are more than twice as likely to be in fair or poor health (33.3%) compared with older adults who use the Internet at least occasionally (14.7%).

"We also found that some demographic groups of older adults are more vulnerable to the barriers created by disuse of the Internet than others, specifically women and minorities," says Malinowski Weingartner. T

The study found women 60 and older are more likely (48.4%) than men 60 and older (34.3%) to report that they never used the Internet. Black and Latino older adults are more likely to say they never used the Internet than are white older adults (62.0% and 72.2% compared with 38.3%)

Work status also correlates with Internet usage. Older adults who are working full-time or part-time are more likely to use the Internet than are older adults who are not working.  About one in five working adults age 60+ reports never using the Internet (19.7%) compared with nearly one third (32.7%) of older adults who are unemployed, about half (49.8%) of retired adults and nearly two thirds (65.5%) of older adults who indicate they are unable to work.

"Technologically isolated older adults may be missing important health messages and may have more difficulty completing day-to-day administrative tasks including filling out paperwork and researching health issues compared with older adults who do access the Internet," says Malinowski Weingartner.

-- Dennis Sellers

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