Social determinants of health information seeking among Chinese adults in Hong Kong

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 23;8(8):e73049. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073049. eCollection 2013.


Background: Health communication inequalities were observed in Western population but less is known about them among the Chinese. We investigated health information seeking behaviours and its social determinants among Chinese adults in Hong Kong.

Methods: Probability-based sample surveys over telephone were conducted in 2009, 2010/11 and 2012 to monitor family health and information use. Frequency of health information seeking from television, radio, newspapers/magazines and Internet were recorded and dichotomised as ≥1 time/month and <1 time/month (reference). Logistic regression was used to yield adjusted odds ratios (aOR) of health information seeking for different demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status (education, employment and income), chronic disease and behaviours (smoking, drinking and physical activity).

Results: Among 4553 subjects in all surveys, most (85.1%) had sought health information monthly from newspapers/magazines (66.2%), television (61.4%), radio (35.6%) or Internet (33.2%). Overall, being male, lower education attainment, lower household income, ever-smoking and physical inactivity were associated with less frequent health information seeking (all P <0.05). Compared with younger people, older people were less likely to search health information from Internet but more like to obtain it from radio (both P for trend <0.001). Having chronic diseases was associated with frequent health information seeking from television (aOR = 1.25, 95% CI: 1.07-1.47) and Internet (aOR = 1.46, 95% CI: 1.24-1.73).

Conclusions: This study has provided the first evidence on health information inequalities from a non-Western population with advanced mass media and Internet penetration. Socioeconomic inequalities and behavioural clustering of health information seeking suggested more resources are needed for improving health communication in disadvantage groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Health Communication*
  • Health Surveys
  • Hong Kong / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Determinants of Health*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study was a part of the project “FAMILY: A Jockey Club Initiative for a Harmonious Society,” which was funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.