Socio-economic influences on health information searching in the USA: the case of diabetes

Allison Janeice Morgan (School of Business, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA)
Eileen M. Trauth (Pennsylania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Publication date: 11 November 2013



The purpose of this paper is to consider the effect of demographic differences on the motivations and abilities of individuals with diabetes in their search for health information online. Using data gathered from a qualitative study of 30 individuals, the paper examined instances of user-based health motivation and abilities using the lens of demographic differences to identify the influence on health information searching and potential health outcomes.


The paper utilized an interpretive, mixed methodology research design. The paper was composed of a user “experience” that served as a critical incident to the paper, where each participant was prompted to do online searching for health and nutrition information. This was followed by open-ended interviews to gain a deeper understanding of each participants’ online searching experience.


The theoretical model used was the Integrated Model of E-Health Use by Dutta-Bergman (2006) which frames the influence of group and individual-level differences on health information search and e-health use and subsequently health outcomes. The paper found that experiences among diabetic patients who have an assumed intrinsic motivation to search have differential searching behaviors due to a number of factors including access to health care provider or resources, searching success, and significant people in the individuals’ lives. Assumptions about race and socio-economic status are challenged because of the geographic location in which people live and work.

Research limitations/implications

This research on intersectionality and the health information consumer contributes to a better understanding of health information searching behavior. Implications from this research for practice are that search technology in the domain of health should be made customizable, that a variety of user perspectives should be incorporated in the e-health systems development process, and that a comprehensive view of the user in system development should be utilized. In addition, those with diabetes or other chronic illnesses should seek out a variety of resources to enhance their health outcomes.


The examination constitutes one of the few investigations into health information consumer characteristics that might influence the person-technology-information interaction in the context of health care provision. This type of examination into health care consumer characteristics and information behavior is necessary because it has bearing on the success of health care information systems implementation and impact.



Janeice Morgan, A. and M. Trauth, E. (2013), "Socio-economic influences on health information searching in the USA: the case of diabetes", Information Technology & People, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 324-346.

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