The Digital Divide: Racial and Ethnic Differences in U.S. Mobile Phone Use to Access Online Health Information
Pontes, Nancy M. H.
Pontes, Manuel C. F.
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Session presented on Sunday, July 26, 2015: Purpose: Much previous research has investigated how people access the Internet and online health information. This research has identified the digital divide - minorities and low-income persons are more likely to lack access to the Internet and to online health information. Unfortunately, there has been very little previous research that has investigated how people use mobile devices to access the Internet and online health information. The current research addresses this gap in the literature and investigates the relationship between race-ethnicity and other demographic variables, and the role of mobile devices for access to online health information in the US. Methods: This current research uses data collected in 2012 by telephone interview of a nationally representative sample of adults in the US (n=3014). The Pew Foundation sponsored the data collection, and provided results in a report. For this research, secondary data analyses were performed on the subset of cell phone owners (n=2,582) with the use of R and its survey package that allows researchers to incorporate the sampling weights to estimate population statistics and standard errors. Results: Univariate results showed that among cell-phone owners, 1) Non-Hispanic blacks (35.5%), and Hispanics (38.1%) were each significantly more likely than non-Hispanic whites (26.6%) to use mobile devices to access health information online, and 2) Non-Hispanic blacks (25.4%), and Hispanics (26.4%) were each significantly less likely than non-Hispanic whites (41.4%) to access health information online with no use of a mobile device. Hispanics, however, are significantly younger than non-Hispanic whites, and age has a significant negative relationship to mobile device use. Therefore multivariate logistic regression was performed with age, gender, education levels, and family income as covariates to investigate the relationship between race-ethnicity and the likelihood of online access to health information. Results of the multivariate analyses showed that after adjustment for covariates, Hispanics, Non-Hispanic blacks, and other minorities were each significantly more likely than non-Hispanic whites to use mobile devices to access health information online. Also, multivariate results showed that after adjustment for covariates, Hispanics, Non-Hispanic blacks, and other minorities were each significantly less likely than non-Hispanic whites to access health information online without use of a mobile device. Conclusion: These results suggest that the availability of mobile devices may help reduce the digital divide for access to online health information. Low income and minority populations previously regarded as less likely to access online health information, are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to access to online health information through their mobile devices. Also, these results suggest that nurses and other health communicators who wish to disseminate health information online should design their websites and other health information to be very accessible on mobile devices.