Table of Contents
International Journal of Family Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 397039, 6 pages
Research Article

The Role of Health Literacy and Social Networks in Arthritis Patients' Health Information-Seeking Behavior: A Qualitative Study

1Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
2School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia

Received 26 March 2012; Revised 21 June 2012; Accepted 1 August 2012

Academic Editor: Christos D. Lionis

Copyright © 2012 Janette Ellis et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. Patients engage in health information-seeking behaviour to maintain their wellbeing and to manage chronic diseases such as arthritis. Health literacy allows patients to understand available treatments and to critically appraise information they obtain from a wide range of sources. Aims. To explore how arthritis patients' health literacy affects engagement in arthritis-focused health information-seeking behaviour and the selection of sources of health information available through their informal social network. Methods. An exploratory, qualitative study consisting of one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Twenty participants with arthritis were recruited from community organizations. The interviews were designed to elicit participants' understanding about their arthritis and arthritis medication and to determine how the participants' health literacy informed selection of where they found information about their arthritis and pain medication. Results. Participants with low health literacy were less likely to be engaged with health information-seeking behaviour. Participants with intermediate health literacy were more likely to source arthritis-focused health information from newspapers, television, and within their informal social network. Those with high health literacy sourced information from the internet and specialist health sources and were providers of information within their informal social network. Conclusion. Health professionals need to be aware that levels of engagement in health information-seeking behaviour and sources of arthritis-focused health information may be related to their patients' health literacy.