Entertainment or Health? Exploring the Internet Usage Patterns of the Urban Poor: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial.


BACKGROUND Important gaps remain in our knowledge of how individuals from low socioeconomic position (SEP) use the Internet for resources and in understanding the full range of activities they perform online. Although self-report data indicate that low SEP individuals use the Internet less than high SEP people for health information and for other beneficial capital-enhancing activities, these results may not provide an accurate overall view of online use. OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to determine the ways in which low SEP individuals use the Internet, including for entertainment, social networking, and capital-enhancing functions, and how they are associated with health information seeking. METHODS Detailed Web tracking data were collected from 118 low SEP individuals who participated in the intervention group of a randomized controlled trial that provided Internet access. Websites were grouped by topic, including categories of capital-enhancing websites that provided access to resources and information. Different types of online activities were summed into an Internet use index. Single and multiple negative binomial regression models were fitted with the Internet use index as the predictor and health information seeking as the outcome. Next, models were fitted with low, medium, and high Web usage in capital-enhancing, entertainment, and social network categories to determine their associations with health information seeking. RESULTS Participants used the Web for diverse purposes, with 63.6% (75/118) accessing the Internet for all defined types of Internet use. Each additional category of Internet use was associated with 2.12 times the rate of health information seeking (95% CI 1.84-2.44, P<.001). Higher use of each type of capital-enhancing information was associated with higher rates of health information seeking, with high uses of government (incident rate ratio [IRR] 8.90, 95% CI 4.82-16.42, P<.001) and news (IRR 11.36, 95% CI 6.21-20.79, P<.001) websites associated with the highest rates of health information seeking compared to their lowest use categories. High entertainment website use (IRR 3.91, 95% CI 2.07-7.37, P<.001) and high social network use (IRR 2.06, 95% CI 1.08-3.92, P=.03) were also associated with higher health information seeking. CONCLUSIONS These data clearly show that familiarity and skills in using the Internet enhance the capacity to use it for diverse purposes, including health and to increase capital, and that Internet usage for specific activities is not a zero sum game. Using it for one type of topic, such as entertainment, does not detract from using it for other purposes. Findings may inform ways to engage low SEP groups with Internet resources.

DOI: 10.2196/jmir.4375

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@article{McCloud2016EntertainmentOH, title={Entertainment or Health? Exploring the Internet Usage Patterns of the Urban Poor: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial.}, author={Rachel Faulkenberry McCloud and Cassandra A. Okechukwu and Glorian Sorensen and Kasisomayajula Viswanath}, journal={Journal of medical Internet research}, year={2016}, volume={18 3}, pages={e46} }