Health Literacy, Digital Health Literacy, and COVID-19 Pandemic Attitudes and Behaviors in U.S. College Students: Implications for Interventions

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 23;18(6):3301. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063301.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by rapidly emerging evidence, changing guidance, and misinformation, which present new challenges for health literacy (HL) and digital health literacy (DHL) skills. This study explored whether COVID-19-related information access, attitudes, and behaviors were associated with health literacy and digital health literacy among college students in the United States. Self-reported measures of health literacy, along with items on pandemic-related attitudes, behaviors, information sources, and social networks, were collected online using a managed research panel. In July 2020, 256 responses were collected, which mirrored the racial/ethnic and gender diversity of U.S. colleges. Only 49% reported adequate HL, and 57% found DHL tasks easy overall. DHL did not vary by HL level. In multivariable models, both HL and DHL were independently associated with overall compliance with basic preventive practices. Higher DHL, but not HL, was significantly associated with greater willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine and the belief that acquiring the disease would negatively impact their life. On average, respondents discussed health with 4-5 people, which did not vary by HL or DHL measures. The usage of online information sources varied by HL and DHL. The study findings can inform future student-focused interventions, including identifying the distinct roles of HL and DHL in pandemic information access, attitudes, and behaviors.

Keywords: COVID-19; college student; coronavirus; digital health literacy; eHealth literacy; health literacy; online survey; social network.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology

Substances

  • COVID-19 Vaccines