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Keywords:

  • Internet utilisation;
  • consumer health information;
  • health services accessibility

Abstract

Objective: An exploratory study to determine the proportion of people aged 50-76 years who have Internet access, the location of this access, predictive characteristics of such access, and preparedness to receive unsolicited health information through this medium.

Methods: A random sample of 1,000 South Australians was identified from the Australian Electoral Commission roll and contacted by telephone in 2006. They were invited to answer questions about their access to the Internet and attitude towards receiving unsolicited health information via the Internet.

Results: Of those contacted, 41% provided information. Of this group, 59% indicated that they had Internet access, mostly at home. Men were more likely than women to have home access (p<0.05). Higher educational achievement, higher economic status and younger age were all significantly associated with access. Of those who had access, 65% would be willing to receive health information through the Internet.

Conclusions: More than half the population older than 50 years has access to the Internet at some location, and there is a general acceptance of the possibility of receiving health-promoting material via this medium. However, delivery via the Internet alone would disadvantage those who are less educated, less financially well off and older.

Implications: It is likely that a generational change in the entire nature of public communication will influence the efficiency and effectiveness of preventive health promotion delivery via the Internet. In order to facilitate improved health outcomes, issues of disparity of access must be addressed.