Digital Health Information Disparities in Older Adults: a Mixed Methods Study

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Geriatrics | Health Communication | Health Information Technology | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Race and Ethnicity


Important health information including disease prevention and chronic disease self-management is increasingly packaged for digital use. The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed methods study was to describe the extent of computer ownership, Internet access, and digital health information use in an ethnically diverse sample of older adults, comparing ownership, access, and use of digital health information (DHI) across ethnic groups and identifying the factors associated with them quantitatively. Significant differences in computer ownership, Internet access, and DHI use were found across ethnic groups (African American, Afro-Caribbean, Hispanic American, and European American). Logistic regression identified older age, less education, lower income, and minority group membership as significant predictors of limited DHI use. Older African Americans were one-fifth as likely to own a computer than were European Americans; Hispanic Americans were one-half as likely to have access to the Internet. We then conducted a series of focus groups which highlighted differences across ethnic groups. Participants in the African American/Afro-Caribbean group expressed frustration with lack of access to DHI but appreciation for alternative sources of information. Hispanic Americans critiqued information received from providers and drug inserts, some suggesting that a positive attitude and trust in God also contributed to getting well. European American participants evaluated various DHI websites, looking to providers for help in applying information to their personal situation. As the development and use of DHI continue, parallel efforts to increase access to DHI among economically disadvantaged and minority older adults are critical to prevent further disfranchisement.


Digital divide, Digital health information, Internet access, Minority health, Older adults

DOI of Published Version



Tappen RM, Cooley ME, Luckmann R, Panday S. Digital Health Information Disparities in Older Adults: a Mixed Methods Study. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2021 Jan 7:1–11. doi: 10.1007/s40615-020-00931-3. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33415705; PMCID: PMC7790471. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID