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Web-savvy seniors have better health literacy: study

December 2, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Older adults who surf the Web and stay active socially are more likely to understand health concepts, according to research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Researchers at University College London assessed the health literacy skills of almost 4,500 adults aged 52 years or more between 2004 and 2011. The study identified Internet use and social engagement as factors in older adults retaining "health literacy," or the ability obtain, understand and process basic health information.

Although researchers found a link between aging and a drop in health literacy scores, they also discovered that those who regularly used the internet and engaged in civic, leisure or cultural activities showed less of a decline.

In discussing their findings, the researchers wrote: "Internet use and engagement in various social activities, in particular cultural activities, appear to help older adults maintain the literacy skills required to self-manage health. The results indicate that health literacy skills are fluid over time, that loss of literacy skills during aging is not inevitable, and that technological and social factors should be understood as influences on literacy skills."