Online Information Searches and Help Seeking for Mental Health Problems in Urban China

  • Juan Chen
  • Shizhan Zhu
Original Article


In recent years, the Internet has emerged as an alternative information source on mental health problems. Yet, the profile of the typical Internet help seeker is to be determined. Based on data from a household survey of 2558 Beijing residents, the study investigates online information searches and help seeking for mental health problems. Multinomial logistic regressions are estimated for respondents’ access to the Internet, and mental-health-related information searches and help seeking on the Internet for the whole community sample and the most psychologically distressed subsample. The study identifies a digital divide in online help seeking for mental health issues based on age, migration and hukou status, and socio-economic factors. Youth and high socio-economic status are significant predictors of Internet access and use. Among the whole community sample, rural-to-urban migrants are less likely to have access to the Internet and search information or seek help online. Among the most psychologically distressed subsample, urban-to-urban migrants are significantly more likely to have access to the Internet and search information or seek help online. Given the shortage of mental health professionals in China, online information dissemination and guided self-help, if properly designed, could offer a means to reach large numbers of individuals in a cost-effective manner.


China Mental health Information search Help seeking Digital divide Survey 



The 2013 household survey in Beijing was funded by the General Research Fund of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (PolyU5411/12H). The authors are grateful for the research collaboration of the Research Center for Contemporary China (RCCC) at Peking University during the implementation of the survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Social SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloon China
  2. 2.School of ManagementGuangdong University of TechnologyGuangzhouChina

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