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Open Access Research article

Users and non-users of web-based health advice service among Finnish university students – chronic conditions and self-reported health status (a cross-sectional study)

Johanna Castrén123*, Teppo Huttunen4 and Kristina Kunttu2

Author affiliations

1 Medical School, Department of General Practice, 33014 University of Tampere, Finland

2 Finnish Student Health Service, Töölönkatu 37, 00260 Helsinki, Finland

3 Pirkanmaa Hospital District, Department of General Practice, 33521 Tampere, Finland

4 Oy 4Pharma Ltd, Turku, Finland

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-8

Published: 31 January 2008

Abstract

Background

The Internet is increasingly used by citizens as source of health information. Young, highly educated adults use the Internet frequently to search for health-related information. Our study explores whether reported chronic conditions or self-reported health status differed among Finnish university students using the Finnish Student Health Services web-based health advice service compared with those not using the service.

Methods

Cross-sectional study performed by a national postal survey in 2004. Material: A random sample (n = 5 030) of a population of 101 805 undergraduate Finnish university students aged 19–35. The response rate: 63% (n = 3 153). Main outcome measures: Proportion of university students reporting use a of web-based health advice service, diagnosed chronic conditions, and self-reported health status of users and non-users of a web-based health advice service. Statistical methods: Data were presented with frequency distributions and cross-tabulations and the χ2 test was used.

Results

12% (n = 370) of Finnish undergraduate students had used the web-based health advice service and were identified as 'users'. The proportion of male students reporting allergic rhinitis or conjunctivitis was greater among users than non-users (24%, n = 22 vs. 15%, n = 154, χ2, P = .03). The proportion of female students reporting chronic mental health problems was greater among users than non-users (12%, n = 34 vs. 8%, n = 140, χ2, P = .03). There was no statistical significance between the group differences of male or female users and non-users in self-reported health status (good or fairly good, average, rather poor or poor).

Conclusion

Among young, highly educated adults the use of a web-based health advice service is not associated with self-reported health status. However, a web-based health advice service could offer support for managing several specific chronic conditions. More research data is needed to evaluate the role of web-based health advice services that supplement traditional forms of health services.