Background Increasingly, health information for adults with arthritis is developed and delivered online to facilitate access to health information and online interactions with peers. Research on internet use by people with chronic conditions suggests that that 72% of these populations use the internet compared to 89% of those without these conditions (1). However, this research did not examine internet use by those with arthritis.
Objectives This study examines the prevalence of general internet use, and two online health behaviors (look up health information; use chat groups to learn about health topics) in the US population of adults with arthritis compared with those without arthritis.
Methods We analyzed data for respondents from the sample adult core (n=34,558) of the 2013 National Health Interview Survey which represents the US civilian, noninstitutionalized population. Arthritis was “yes” to “Have you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia?” Internet and online health behaviors were assessed by “yes” to: “Do you use the internet?”, and two separate questions “During the past 12 months have you ever used computers for any of the following: 1) look up health information online?; 2) use online chat groups to learn about health topics?” We estimated weighted proportions and examined sociodemographic correlates in unadjusted and multivariable adjusted logistic regression models using prevalence ratios (PR) with 95% Confidence Intervals (CI).
Results Of those with arthritis, 65% (95% CI: 64, 67) used the internet, 46% (44, 47) looked up health information, and 3% (3, 4) used online chat groups compared to those without arthritis [80% (79, 80) 49% (48, 49), and 4% (3, 4), respectively]. Multivariate analyses indicated that while internet use was no different for people with arthritis compared with those without arthritis after controlling for the sociodemographic variables age, sex, race/ethnicity, and education (Table), obtaining online health information was 10% more common and participating in online chat groups was 40% more common in people with arthritis.
Conclusions Approximately two thirds of people with arthritis used the internet, a percentage significantly smaller than those without arthritis. However, after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics the prevalence of internet use between those with and without arthritis was essentially the same. While online health behaviors were significantly more prevalent in people with arthritis compared with those without arthritis after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, less than half of those with arthritis actually accessed health information online and only 3% used a chat room. Thus, relying on online sources to deliver health information may miss a large sector of adults with arthritis. Health practitioners must focus on understanding and improving factors that prevent engagement in online health behaviors and ensuring that non-internet modes of information remain available while internet modes are implemented.
Pew Research Center, November 2013. The Diagnosis Difference.
Disclosure of Interest None declared