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Influence of ethnicity, gender, and immigration status on millennials’ behavior related to seeking health information: Results from a national survey

Roofia Galeshi (Department of Education, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, USA)
Jyotsna Sharman (Department of Health and Human Performance, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, USA)
Jinghong Cai (Patton Education College, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 20 August 2018




The purpose of this paper is to understand the behavior diversities that exist among young millennials’ subgroups in ways they seek health-related information.


The authors ran several sets of analyses on the 2012–2014 US Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Data using Stata. The population was stratified into four specific subgroups based on their gender, ethnicity—blacks, Hispanics and whites—immigration status, college status—whether they were enrolled in a program of study at the time of the survey. The outcome variables were sources of health information including print (books/magazines/brochures), traditional media (Radio/TV), internet, family/friends/co-workers and health professionals. The independent variables were gender, ethnicity, educational status and immigration status. The authors utilized the appropriate sample weight derived by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development so the findings can be generalized to the populations. The analysis included several descriptive statistics and χ2 test of independence.


Despite similarities, young adults’ health seeking behavior is complex influenced by gender, ethnicity, immigration status and education. The results indicated that while the internet is the primary source of health-related information for all young adults, there are subtle differences in utilizing other available resources. For example while more educated young adults seek help from their family members, the less educated peers use the media to obtain health-related information. Ethnicity has also an effect on young adults’ information seeking behavior. The number of Hispanics and blacks that obtain their information from traditional media is significantly higher than their white counterparts.

Research limitations/implications

This study has several limitations. First, the authors did not consider the effect of young adults’ digital literacy skills, problem solving skills and numeracy skills on their health seeking approach. Including these cognitive skills could reveal key information about young adults approach to information seeking that is not apparent by race, ethnicity and gender only. Another limitation of this study is the lack of the ability to claim causation, PIAAC data are designed strictly for cross-sectional analysis.

Practical implications

Although, behaviors often do not change simply by presenting information, trying to change behavior without improving individuals’ understanding of the issue by providing accurate information is likely to fail. Providing standardized health-related information sources that are accessible to all is vitally important. The results indicate that while the majority of young adults use the internet as their primary source of information only a few percentage of young adults seek information from health professional. Consequently, there is a need for an easily accessible and standardized online health-related source of information.

Social implications

Healthcare facilities and health related industries have the resources and the ability to develop a reliable infrastructure that could potentially provide reliable information that is easy to understand and navigate for adults with a variety of literacy and skills to use. Perhaps adopting the Universal Design for Learning approach and providing information that is accessible to a variety of individuals regardless of their education, learning skills and language skills. Flexible learning resources provided within a standard infrastructure accessible to all can help individuals find trustworthy and consistent information that they can trust.


Despite the unique characteristics of the millennials and the profound change in the way young adults seek information, there is a paucity of research on the ways young adults seek health-related information. Most existing literature is based on locally developed surveys and convenient sampling with limited reliability and validity information. Consequently making a sweeping statement based on their findings is considered as hasty generalization. The PIAAC, on the other hand, is a nationally representative data, extensively examined for its validity and reliability.



Galeshi, R., Sharman, J. and Cai, J. (2018), "Influence of ethnicity, gender, and immigration status on millennials’ behavior related to seeking health information: Results from a national survey", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 621-631.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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