Background: Most evidence (not all) points in the direction that individuals with a higher level of health literacy will less frequently utilize the health care system than individuals with lower levels of health literacy. The underlying reasons of this effect are largely unclear, though people's ability to seek health information independently at the time of wide availability of such information on the Internet has been cited in this context. Objective: We propose and test two potential mediators of the negative effect of eHealth literacy on health care utilization: (1) health information seeking and (2) gain in empowerment by information seeking. Methods: Data were collected in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States using a Web-based survey administered by a company specialized on providing online panels. Combined, the three samples resulted in a total of 996 baby boomers born between 1946 and 1965 who had used the Internet to search for and share health information in the previous 6 months. Measured variables include eHealth literacy, Internet health information seeking, the self-perceived gain in empowerment by that information, and the number of consultations with one's general practitioner (GP). Path analysis was employed for data analysis. Results: We found a bundle of indirect effect paths showing a positive relationship between health literacy and health care utilization: via health information seeking (Path 1), via gain in empowerment (Path 2), and via both (Path 3). In addition to the emergence of these indirect effects, the direct effect of health literacy on health care utilization disappeared. Conclusions: The indirect paths from health literacy via information seeking and empowerment to GP consultations can be interpreted as a dynamic process and an expression of the ability to find, process, and understand relevant information when that is necessary.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017 Adrian Aguilera, Emma Bruehlman-Senecal, Orianna Demasi, Patricia Avila.
- Baby boomers
- Ehealth literacy
- Health care utilization
- Health empowerment
- Health literacy
- Information seeking