Superdiversity, migration and use of internet-based health information – results of a cross-sectional survey conducted in 4 European countries

Florence Samkange-Zeeb, Liubov Borisova, Beatriz Padilla, Hannah Bradby, Jenny Phillimore, Hajo Zeeb, Tilman Brand

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Studies of factors associated with the use of Internet-based health information generally focus on general, rather than migrant populations. This study looked into the reasons why Internet-based health information is used and the effects of migration-related factors, other socio-demographic characteristics and health-related factors on the tendency to consult the Internet.

In a cross-sectional survey conducted in eight superdiverse neighbourhoods - two each in Birmingham, United Kingdom; Bremen, Germany; Lisbon, Portugal and Uppsala, Sweden - participants were presented with six scenarios and asked to indicate the resources they most relied on when addressing a health concern from a given list. The scenarios included establishing the underlying causes of a health concern and seeking information about prescription drugs, treatments and services available as part of the public healthcare system. The list of resources included the public healthcare system, alternative medicine, family and friends, and the Internet. Frequencies for which the Internet was consulted for each different scenario were calculated and compared across the participating cities. The association between consulting Internet-based health information and migration-related factors, and further socio-demographic characteristics as well as health-related factors such as self-reported health and health literacy was assessed using multivariable logistic regressions.

Of the 2570 participants from all four cities who were included in the analyses, 47% had a migrant background and 35% originated from non-EU countries. About a third reported relying on Internet-based health information for at least one of the given scenarios. The two most frequently chosen scenarios were to find out about other possible treatments and prescription drugs. Generally, using Internet-based health information was negatively associated with being a first generation migrant (OR 0.65; 95% CI 0.46–0.93), having poor local language competency (OR 0.25; 95% CI 0.14–0.45), older age (≥60 years, OR 0.21; 95% CI 0.15–0.31), low education (OR 0.35; 95% CI 0.24–0.50) and positively associated with low trust in physicians (OR 2.13; 95% CI 1.47–3.10).

Our findings indicate the need to consider migration background and language competency when promoting the provision of healthcare services via the Internet so that information and services are widely accessible.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1263
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the funding from the Welfare State Futures Programme, which made this research possible. We also thank the UPWEB wider research teams and all participants for agreeing to be interviewed and making time for the interviews.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Internet-based health information, Migration, Digital divide
  • Migration
  • Internet-based health information
  • Digital divide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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