Health information matters : everyday health information literacy and behaviour in relation to health behaviour and physical health among young men

This study increases the understanding of young men’s everyday health information literacy and behaviour in relation to their health behaviour, physical health, and socio-demographic characteristics. The conceptual framework of the study builds upon theories of information behaviour, practices and literacy, and health behaviour change.

The empirical data were collected with questionnaires (n = 3,293) and physiological measurements (n = 3,063) in 2010 to 2013 at the Finnish Defence Forces’ call-ups, where a population-based sample of young Finnish men could be reached. Everyday health information literacy was studied using a previously developed screening tool, and with a focus on its relationship with health behaviour and physical fitness. Information behaviour was investigated in the context of physical activity, and in relation to men’s readiness to change exercise behaviour according to the Transtheoretical Model. Statistical analyses of the data include multivariate regression analyses, and a critical realist approach was adopted in interpreting the results.

The results show that general upper secondary education and higher socio-economic position of a parent increase the likelihood of good health information literacy. Health information literacy is positively associated with health-promoting behaviour and health independent of socio-economic position; confidence in one’s abilities to find, evaluate and use health information is associated with regular exercise and healthy eating habits, and good physical fitness, for example. In the context of physical activity, the practices used to acquire information are associated with the stage of exercise behaviour change. Men in the maintenance stage seek information most actively. Information avoidance, in turn, is connected to low health information literacy, not to the stage of change.

The study provides novel knowledge on healthy young people’s everyday health information literacy and behaviour, and on their relationship. It is among the first to investigate health information behaviour in the stages of behaviour change and health information literacy in connection with objectively measured fitness. It proposes a framework for future studies on the relationship between health information literacy and behaviour, and health information outcomes. The results may be utilised when designing tailored health communications and health information literacy education.


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City (for University):
University of Oulu