Even when factors like education level, income and age are accounted for, adults with chronic diseases are still less likely to go online or have internet access, compared with other adults, according to a Pew report.
Just 62% of adults living with one or more chronic disease go online, compared with 81% of adults reporting no chronic disease, the report found.
Susannah Fox, associate director, digital strategy at Pew Internet Project and co-author of the report, said education level had the strongest effect on internet access. Other factors, such as ethnicity, age and geographic location also correlate with internet use and access. “All of those factors are anchoring [adults with chronic disease] down, but having a chronic disease carries an independent effect on internet access,” she said.
That's not to say that there isn't plenty of specialized health information online for those that can access the internet. Adults with chronic disease that are able to go online are more likely to share health information through blogs or other participation in online health discussions, according to the report.
Fox said that while there isn't a singular causality for why chronic disease sufferers have less access to the internet, cost and a lack of understanding are two major barriers to access. The FCC is currently working on a plan that would provide more broadband access to rural communities, which could help bring more sufferers online, said Fox.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of adults in the US are living with at least one chronic illness. Data for the Pew report was compiled from a national telephone survey of 2,253 adults during November and December 2008. Qualitative surveys were conducted among patients visiting HealthCentral and PatientsLikeMe in 2009.