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Mon, 21 Dec 2015

Young can’t use online health help

Healthcare story
Younger people may have trouble understanding online health advice

New research by James Cook University suggests many young people can’t make simple nutritional calculations, or apply or evaluate information using online health resources.

JCU marketing expert, Professor Lynne Eagle co-authored a study in which researchers questioned 175 business students. More than half were under 20-years-old and almost all were under 30.

They found more than 50 per cent of those surveyed used online resources to search for health information at least once a month.

But many were uncertain about their ability to evaluate the information and commonly-used health and nutrition terms, and could not effectively use nutritional labels. Only 17 per cent gave a correct definition of BMI, and half could not calculate the total calories within a container of ice cream.

Professor Eagle said several assumptions underpinned current health and nutrition communication policies. “The first is that information provision will lead to better outcomes. We’ve shown this to be not necessarily so because many young people don’t know how to interpret it.”

Professor Eagle said the key conclusions were that online sources were not yet the dominant source for health information. “The ability of this group to evaluate and apply information has been overstated as has their interest in the area and the ability to make even simple nutritional calculations and thus decisions.”

She said that if online health resources are to be effective, things needed to change. “Ways need to be found to overcome existing ignorance and disinterest, engage young adults and improve their competencies in selecting and using material.”

Professor Eagle said the findings of this study have wider implications regarding the literacy and numeracy challenges faced by a large proportion of consumers across national borders.

Contacts

Professor Lynne Eagle
E:lynne.eagle@jcu.edu.au

P: (07) 4781 5717

Link to study outline: http://bit.ly/1UGlfC2