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IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN ONLINE HEALTH LIFESTYLE?

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The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of the Internet for health-related purposes and whether this usage is part of larger pattern of health-promoting behaviors, or health lifestyle. Pierre Bourdieu's concept of habitus provides the key theoretical concept that links health lifestyle and the digital inequality framework to explain how social conditions (i.e. social status and quality of Internet access) influence attitudes and behaviors. Path analysis is used to examine the relationship between key endogenous variables on attitudes, health behavior, health status, and online health-related activities, while controlling for demographics and other factors. Data comes from the National Cancer Institute's 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey. The results demonstrate that online health behaviors can be usefully conceptualized as elements of health lifestyle. The combination of health lifestyle and digital inequality provides a broader theoretical framework that highlights the importance of social conditions to influence people's Internet habitus and routine health-promoting behaviors. The combination of health lifestyle and digital inequality provides a useful theoretical framework for future research investigating persistent social disparities in health and the potential for the growing reliance on information and communication technologies to contribute to socially patterned health outcomes.
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Keywords: Internet; digital inequality; habitus; health information seeking; online health lifestyle

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Connected Health, 25 New Chardon Street 321MBoston,MA,02114, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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