Internet use among older Europeans: an analysis based on SHARE data


Access to the Internet is becoming increasingly important for all generations. However, a digital gap in Internet use remains between younger and older individuals as well as within the elderly population itself. This study, therefore, aimed to investigate Internet use among elderly Europeans. Representative data across 17 countries from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) were examined. Analyses were based on the responses of 61,202 Europeans aged ≥ 50. Results highlight that, on average, 49% of all respondents use the Internet. However, the situation varies widely among European countries. Alongside individual indicators, such as age, gender, and social class, results indicate that previous experience with computers during one’s time in the workplace is positively associated with Internet use in old age. Furthermore, use of the Internet among an individual’s social network positively influences their use. Wider contextual structures such as area of residence and country-specific wealth and communication technology infrastructure also tend to promote Internet use among elderly Europeans. Data from SHARE indicate that private Internet use among older Europeans is driven by personal resources, prior experiences with technology, social salience as well as contextual influences.

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This paper uses data from SHARE Wave 6 (, see Börsch-Supan et al. [43, 44] for methodological details. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and FP7 (SHARE-PREP: N°211909, SHARE-LEAP: N°227822, SHARE M4: N°261982). Additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the US National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C), and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see The data were adjusted for this investigation, and extensive consistency checks were made.

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Correspondence to Ronny König.

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König, R., Seifert, A. & Doh, M. Internet use among older Europeans: an analysis based on SHARE data. Univ Access Inf Soc 17, 621–633 (2018).

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  • ICT
  • Elderly people
  • Europe
  • Digital divide