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When is the Internet a valued communication device for health information in Europe?

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The proliferation of new information and communication technologies such as the Internet has arguably changed the way individuals update the information they use to prevent illness and monitor their health. Compared with other information sources, Internet use reduces information access costs but comes with trade-offs in terms of quality and credibility of information sources. Limited evidence has been gathered on the behavioural consequences of new technologies such as the Internet on individuals' demand for healthcare information. This paper empirically examines the determinants of Internet use to acquire health-related information and the value attached to this information by drawing upon representative data from European Union member states in a 2002 Eurobarometer survey. Credibility and experience appear to influence use of the Internet for health information. Namely, we find that trust in direct physician advice inhibits the use of the Internet for health information purposes while frequency of Internet use makes the Internet appear a more valuable source of information. Controls for respondent characteristics indicate that young, well-educated males living in an urban environment are more likely to frequently use the web for health information.

Keywords: ICT; Internet; demand for information; health information; information costs; knowledge updating; rational learning; trust

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: LSE Health and Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics, London, UK,European Institute, London School of Economics, London, UK 2: LSE Health and Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics, London, UK

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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