Objective: This paper investigates the relationship between health information-seeking behaviour on the Internet and health literacy in the population of older Australians. Methods: Data was obtained from the Adults Literacy and Life Skills (ALLS) Survey conducted in 2006. Health literacy was assessed using a specific scale designed to measure health literacy proficiency. Internet usage for health information seeking purposes was elicited from responses to a direct question. Data were analysed using simple unweighted logistic modelling techniques with stratification by education levels. Results: Older people with medium level of education and had a higher health literacy proficiency were 4 times as likely to be frequent users of the Internet for the purposes of searching for health information (OR=3.7, 95%C.I.=1.3-10.3), and about 3 times as likely to be infrequent users, (OR=2.6, 95%C.I.=1.6-4.4) when compared to non-users. For higher education levels, only infrequent usage was significantly associated with health literacy. No relationships were found for lower education levels. It is important that health-related information for older people is offered according to their comprehensive ability. Conclusions: The results obtained suggest that there is a significant interaction effect between health information-seeking behaviour on the Internet and education levels, on health literacy. For those who had attained a post-secondary education level, there were significant associations between the exposure and outcome variables in a progressive manner with the strength of associations increasing from infrequent users to frequent users. This suggested a dose-response relationship between exposure and outcome.
Health literacy; aged; health information seeking