Details of Publication 768 for Project A496A:

Rowlands I, Dobson A, Loxton D & Mishra G. Seeking Health Information Online: Association With Young Australian Women’s Physical, Mental, and Reproductive Health J Med Internet Res, 2015; 17(5): e120

Background: Relatively little is known about the extent to which young adults use the Internet as a health information resource and whether there are factors that distinguish between those who do and do not go online for health information. Objective: The aim was to identify the sociodemographic, physical, mental, and reproductive health factors associated with young women’s use of the Internet for health information.Methods: We used data from 17,069 young women aged 18-23 years who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the association between sociodemographic, physical, mental, and reproductive health factors associated with searching the Internet for health information.Results: Overall, 43.54% (7433/17,069) of women used the Internet for health information. Women who used the Internet had higher odds of regular urinary or bowel symptoms (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.36-1.54), psychological distress (very high distress: OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.13-1.37), self-reported mental health diagnoses (OR 1.16, 95% CI 1.09-1.23), and menstrual symptoms (OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.15-1.36) than women who did not use the Internet for health information. Internet users were less likely to have had blood pressure checks (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.78-0.93) and skin cancer checks (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.84-0.97) and to have had a live birth (OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.64-0.86) or pregnancy loss (OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.79-0.98) than non-Internet users.Conclusions: Women experiencing “stigmatized” conditions or symptoms were more likely to search the Internet for health information. The Internet may be an acceptable resource that offers “anonymized” information or support to young women and this has important implications for health service providers and public health policy.