(HealthDay News) – For adults with average or lower than average education or health knowledge, use of the Internet can reduce cancer fatalism, according to a study published in the December issue of the Journal of Communication.
Chul-joo Lee, PhD, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues used a two-wave nationally representative survey of adults age 40–70 years to examine the effect of Internet use for health information on changes in cancer fatalism, and whether socioeconomic status (indicated by education) and health knowledge moderated these effects. A total of 1,812 participants were surveyed from October 2005–2006 (Wave 1) and then one year later (Wave 2).
The researchers found that having fatalistic beliefs about cancer prevention in Wave 1 was the strongest predictor of beliefs at Wave 2. After controlling for possible confounders, higher levels of Internet use for health information at Wave 1 correlated with decreases in fatalistic beliefs about cancer prevention at Wave 2. This effect was considerably stronger for less educated respondents (with average or below average level of education). Likewise, the association between Internet use and cancer fatalism was more robust for those with average or lower than average levels of health knowledge.
“Our findings are consistent with the notion that the Internet has potential to empower less educated individuals by reducing their cancer fatalism,” the authors write. “We hope this study spurs additional research to better understand these important public health issues.”