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The persistence of digital divides in the use of health information: a comparative study in 28 European countries



This study aimed to identify which are the socio-demographic factors that can describe health information users’ profiles in Europe and assess which are the factors distinguishing users and non-users and their association with the use of health-related online information.


Data from the Flash Eurobarometer No. 404 (2014) was analysed through a multilevel logistic regression model and a propensity score matching.


There were significant differences in the use of the Internet for health information according to gender, age, education, long-term illness and health-related knowledge. Thus, some digital divides persisted in the use of health information online. Results showed that a poor health status was associated with a higher use of the Internet for health purposes only for people having chronic conditions.


Findings show a need to increase people’s eHealth literacy, especially for males over 45 years old not suffering from a long-term illness. In order to limit the misuse of poor or untrustworthy health information that might contribute to higher health disparities, special interest should be focused on population socio-demographic characteristics.

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Fig. 1

Data source: Flash Eurobarometer No. 404, EU-28 countries, 2014


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We would like to acknowledge the support of the University Institute of Research in Social Sustainable Development (INDESS) at the University of Cádiz, and the Ramon and Cajal programme (MIMECO), who contributed to the development of the present manuscript.


JAG was subsidized by the Ramon and Cajal programme of the Ministry of Economy and Business, European Social Fund (RYC-2016-19353).

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Correspondence to Javier Alvarez-Galvez.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Alvarez-Galvez, J., Salinas-Perez, J.A., Montagni, I. et al. The persistence of digital divides in the use of health information: a comparative study in 28 European countries. Int J Public Health 65, 325–333 (2020).

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  • Internet
  • eHealth literacy
  • Health information
  • Digital divide
  • Europe