Associations of internet access on social integration, wellbeing and physical activity among adults in deprived communities: evidence from a household survey

Kearns, A. and Whitley, E. (2019) Associations of internet access on social integration, wellbeing and physical activity among adults in deprived communities: evidence from a household survey. BMC Public Health, 19, 860. (doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-7199-x) (PMID:31266470) (PMCID:PMC6604194)

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Background: There are arguments for and against the wellbeing effects of internet use, with evidence shifting from negative to positive over time, although the effects are partly dependent upon the population sub-group concerned. There are good grounds for anticipating that the internet could be beneficial to people living in deprived communities, but this group has rarely been studied. Methods: Data are from a cross-sectional, face-to-face survey of adult householders (n = 3804) in 15 deprived communities in Glasgow, UK. Respondents were asked whether they used the internet and, if so, how they usually accessed it: at home, via a mobile phone, in a public venue, or other means. Data were also collected on social contact and support, use of amenities, sense of community, wellbeing, loneliness, and physical activity. Results: There were inequalities in internet access within deprived communities, with use of the internet lowest among older people, those with a long-standing illness, and those with no educational qualifications. Some social benefits were associated with internet access, such as frequency of contact with neighbours, available financial social support, and greater use of social amenities and shops. Internet users were also less likely to report feeling lonely and had higher mental wellbeing scores. Respondents who used the internet were also more physically active. However, community cohesion and empowerment variables were very similar among internet users and non-users. Several of the positive associations with internet access were more marked for those who accessed the internet at home and for older people. These are new findings in respect of deprived communities. Conclusions: Extending internet access for people in deprived communities is worthy of further consideration in the context of government objectives for tackling social isolation and increasing wellbeing. The results also suggest that greater digitisation of public services may not result in greater cohesion and empowerment in deprived communities, as is often assumed, but rather has the potential to reinforce social inequalities.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The study is funded by the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, and the Wheatley Housing Group. All funders advised on the selection of study areas and commented on the draft questionnaire. The Wheatley Housing Group commissioned the household survey on behalf of the study. The funders had no input to the analysis or interpretation of the data, nor the preparation of this manuscript. EW is funded by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12017/13) and the Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Government (SPHSU13).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kearns, Professor Ade and Whitley, Dr Elise
Authors: Kearns, A., and Whitley, E.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:BMC Public Health
Publisher:BMC (Springer Nature)
ISSN (Online):1471-2458
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMC Public Health 19:860
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727651Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in HealthAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit