eHealth Literacy of 2-Year and 4-Year College Students: Implications for Health Education in a Post-Truth Era

Early et al. / Pedagogy in Health Promotion / September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic and simultaneous “infodemic” have amplified the need for electronic health (eHealth) literacy, one’s ability to find, evaluate, and apply online health information to make health decisions. To date, only a few studies have examined eHealth literacy among U.S. college students. The purpose of this study was to assess and compare the eHealth literacy of students attending 4-year and 2-year colleges in the Pacific Northwest. A purposeful sample of 781 college students enrolled in nonhealth- and health-related programs completed an electronic version of the eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS). Descriptive, bivariate, and logistical regression were used in the data analyses. Results showed that while there were no significant differences in composite scores by the demographic variables explored, differences on individual eHEALS items emerged between 2-year and 4-year college students, by the first-generation status, and by gender. First-generation students’ mean scores were lower in all areas of eHealth literacy when compared with non-first-generation students. Chi-square tests revealed significant differences in first-generation students’ perceived ability to know how (χ2 = 5.4, p = .020) and where (χ2 = 6.7, p = .010) to find health resources on the internet, as well as how to tell high-quality from low-quality health resources (χ2 = 5.0, p = .025). Students who identified as male were more likely than females to agree that they are “confident in using information from the internet to make health decisions” (p = .028). These findings underscore the need to strengthen higher education curricula and pedagogy to improve students’ eHealth literacy.