An Exploration of the Health Information Seeking Behaviours of Older People
An increasing proportion of people in the United Kingdom are living longer with long-term conditions. The National Health Service is facing the challenge of increased pressure on its service provision. A number of key health policy initiatives encourage individuals to make informed choices and purport to give them rights and control over their own health and healthcare. Within this context, people are actively encouraged to self-care, manage diseases, and make decisions and choices about healthcare in an informed way. To facilitate this, it is important to gain an understanding of the health information seeking behaviours of older people. Health information is available from various sources but little is known about the health information seeking behaviours of older people and what affects this. By exploring this, it helps to reveal how health information is sought regarding on-going health conditions and provides greater depth in understanding the health information seeking process. The study explores older people’s experiences and views on their health information seeking behaviours and endeavours to gain a better understanding of these experiences and views. The study draws on constructivist grounded theory with two phases to data collection: Nine participants completed un-structured diaries over two months with follow up semi-structured interviews, a further twenty participants participated in semi-structured interviews. Major categories were inductively drawn from participant’s responses. Strategies of health information seeking behaviours are not necessarily fixed, but subject to change over time. The analysis suggested three main categories that explained the health information seeking behaviours of older people. Three interrelated conceptual categories were identified: (1) Regulating self (2) Self managing and (3) Self-mobilisation. These categories formed the basis of the emergent substantive theory called ‘navigating later life’. There were different patterns of behaviours between participants which captured variations in information seeking; these informed the development of a typology of health information seekers. Ageing in the 21st century is a complex process; with older people inhabiting a world of more choice, multiple sources of knowledge, changed healthcare roles and increased self-care undertaken within the home. The study provides important insights for healthcare professionals and raises implications for strategies aimed at improving older people’s access to appropriate health information. The navigation model provides a potentially valuable tool for policy makers when considering the support older people require to self-care.