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Disabled Less Probable to Be Online

Americans with disabilities and other chronic conditions are less probable to use the Internet, but those who are online are among the most devoted consumers of health-related information, a new study finds.

Half of those with chronic conditions use the Internet, compared with three-quarters of those without, the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

That is partly since those with chronic conditions tend to be older and less educated; two reasons linked with lower Internet usage overall, said Susannah Fox, an associate director at Pew and the study's main author. Other barriers take in difficulties navigating the Web for those with, say, poor vision or motion control.

However, when they are online, those with chronic conditions are more suitable to search for health information online, at least for some tasks.

Fox said, "It's an indication of what could happen in the future if there were more universal access to the Internet. This population is just as likely as anyone else to take advantage of the technology's promises.

The telephone study of 2,928 American grown-ups was conducted in August 2006 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Results based on the 268 Internet users with chronic conditions have an error margin of plus or minus 7 percentage points.

Pew said 86 percent of Internet users with chronic conditions have searched online for details on at least one of 17 health topics, compared with 79 percent of those without such conditions. The difference, however, falls within the error margin.

The study found the chronic population far more likely to search for information about medication, specific treatments and processes and alternative treatments and medicines, all by margins greater than the potential sampling error.



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