The cost of healthcare in Australia's ageing population is ever increasing. In an attempt to reduce these rising costs, the internet has been suggested as a possible means of disseminating health-related information and promoting preventive health behaviours.
Our objective was to determine the proportion of Australians aged 50-74 years who have internet access, and the characteristics of internet usage, current online health information seeking behaviour, and the willingness to receive unsolicited health information via the Internet.
A random sample of N=25,511 urban older Australians aged 50 to 74 years received a questionnaire via mail and were asked to complete questions concerning variables related to internet usage. N=8,762 returned a competed questionnaire.
Eighty-two per cent of respondents reported having internet access, mainly at home (94%), and the majority actively use this technology (93%). Younger people and those of higher socio-economic status and higher education were more likely to have access (p<.001). Approximately 61% reported actively seeking health-related information online but only 32% expressed a willingness to receive unsolicited health information via the internet. Females were more likely to currently search for health-related information than males but were less likely to be open to receiving unsolicited health information (both p<.001).
According to the data it appears the majority of urban Australians aged over 50 have access to the internet at some location and 60% of them use the internet for health-related purposes. The data also suggests, however, that delivering health information via the internet alone would disadvantage those who are older, less educated, and less financially well-off.