reason people said they went online was to get information quickly (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002). Over the past 2 years, there has been a trend toward more e-mail sharing of worries and seeking of advice (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2002).

By 2001, 40 percent of African-Americans, 32 percent of Hispanics, 60 percent of whites, and 60 percent of Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders had Internet access (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002). All of these data are changing rapidly, and thus become outdated quickly. Moreover, the statistics vary from one report to another. Little data are available on Internet usage by some important populations, including Native Americans. In spite of large increases in the proportion of Americans with Internet access, large numbers of people still lack home access (especially important for health information) or any access at all. Numerous reports have documented the characteristics of this ever-changing population. As of 2001, although some ethnic differences in access still existed, the most profound determinants of those without access were low income and a high school education or less (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002). Important disparities in Internet use that are relevant for health communication are as follows:

  • Older Americans are less likely than younger Americans to use the Internet. Even though the number of older adults using the Internet is increasing, 85 percent of those age 65 and older, and 59 percent between the ages of 50 and 64 do not go online (Lenhart, 2000).

  • Approximately 80 percent of people in households earning more than $75,000 have Internet access. In contrast, one-fourth of those living in households earning less than $15,000 annually have access (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002).

  • Adults without Internet access tend to have less education than those with access. Only 32 percent of Internet users have a high school education or less, compared with 71 percent of nonusers (Lenhart, 2000).

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