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The association between Internet use and health-related outcomes in older adults and the elderly: a cross-sectional study

  • Duplaga, Mariusz1
  • 1 Jagiellonian University Medical College, Skawińska Str. 8, Kraków, 31-066, Poland , Kraków (Poland)
Published Article
BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
May 06, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12911-021-01500-2
Springer Nature


BackgroundOlder adults and elderly persons can experience a significant digital divide. However, there are many studies reporting that the use of the Internet has benefits related to a person’s health status and social inclusion. It is not fully clear if Internet use and health-related outcomes share common antecedents or if using the Internet may have a favourable effect on the determinants responsible for good health. The main aim of this study was to assess the relationship between the use of the Internet and health-related outcomes in older adults and elderly people in Poland.MethodsThe effect of the use of the Internet was analysed with regression models after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. The data used for the analysis were obtained through a telephone-based survey on a representative sample of Polish adults at least 50 years of age.ResultsBy categorising the frequency of Internet use by the respondents, it was found that some categories were significantly related to less favourable health behaviours. Rare Internet users were less likely to undertake physical activity than nonusers (odds ratio, OR, 95% confidence interval, 95%CI 0.48, 0.28–0.83). Those using the Internet every day less frequently consumed fruit and vegetables (OR, 95%CI 0.64, 0.42–0.99). Internet use was also associated with more frequent consumption of alcohol (OR, 95%CI 1.65, 1.09–2.50 comparing nonusers with those accessing the Internet several times a week). Persons rarely using the Internet, but not those who accessed it at least a few times a week, possessed a lower health literacy than nonusers (OR, 95%CI 0.71, 0.52–0.97). Internet users were also more likely to assess their health status as unsatisfactory (OR, 95%CI 0.59, 0.42–0.82 comparing nonusers with those using the Internet daily). Finally, the use of the Internet was consistently associated with a lower prevalence of chronic conditions and disability, as well as less frequent visits to health care facilities.ConclusionsIn conclusion, in contrast to earlier findings, Internet use is not associated with favourable patterns of lifestyle or higher self-rated health in older Polish adults. However, persons with chronic conditions or disabilities less frequently declare the use of the Internet. It was also revealed that older adults and the elderly who make use of the Internet are less likely to utilise health services.

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