Objective: To gain new insights into the relationship between health literacy and evaluation of online health information.
Methods: Using a mixed-methods approach, forty-four semi-structured interviews were conducted followed by a short questionnaire on health literacy and eHealth literacy. Qualitative and quantitative data were merged to explore differences and similarities among respondents with different health literacy levels.
Results: Thematic analysis showed that most respondents did not question the quality of online health information and relied on evaluation criteria not recognized by existing web quality guidelines. Individuals with low health literacy, despite presenting higher eHealth literacy scores, appeared to use less established criteria and to rely more heavily on non-established ones compared to those with high health literacy.
Conclusion: Disparities in evaluation ability among people with different health literacy might be related to differences in awareness of the issue and to the use of different evaluation criteria. Future research should quantitatively investigate the interplay between health literacy, use of established and non-established criteria, and ability to evaluate online health information.
Practical implications: Communication and patient education efforts should aim to raise awareness on online health information quality and to promote use of established evaluation criteria, especially among low health literate citizens.
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