BACKGROUND: eHealth literacy can potentially facilitate web-based information seeking and taking informed measures .
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to evaluate socioeconomic disparities in eHealth literacy and seeking of web-based information on COVID-19, and their associations with COVID-19 preventive behaviors .
METHODS: The COVID-19 Health Information Survey (CoVHIns), using telephonic (n=500) and web-based surveys (n=1001), was conducted among adults in Hong Kong in April 2020 . The Chinese eHealth literacy scale (eHEALS; score range 8-40) was used to measure eHealth literacy . COVID-19 preventive behaviors included wearing surgical masks, wearing fabric masks, washing hands, social distancing, and adding water or bleach to the household drainage system . Adjusted beta coefficients and the slope indices of inequality for the eHEALS score by socioeconomic status, adjusted odds ratios (aORs) for seeking of web-based information on COVID-19 by socioeconomic status, and aORs for the high adherence to preventive behaviors by the eHEALS score and seeking of web-based information on COVID-19 were calculated .
RESULTS: The mean eHEALS score was 26.10 (SD 7.70). Age was inversely associated with the eHEALS score, but education and personal income were positively associated with the eHEALS score and seeking of web-based information on COVID-19 (for all, P for trend <.05). Participants who sought web-based information on COVID-19 showed high adherence to the practice of wearing surgical masks (aOR 1.56 , 95% CI 1.15-2.13), washing hands (aOR 1.33 , 95% CI 1.05-1.71), social distancing (aOR 1.48 , 95% CI 1.14-1.93), and adding water or bleach to the household drainage system (aOR 1.67 , 95% CI 1.28-2.18). Those with the highest eHEALS score displayed high adherence to the practice of wearing surgical masks (aOR 3.84 , 95% CI 1.63-9.05), washing hands (aOR 4.14 , 95% CI 2.46-6.96), social distancing (aOR 2.25 , 95% CI 1.39-3.65), and adding water or bleach to the household drainage system (aOR 1.94 , 95% CI 1.19-3.16), compared to those with the lowest eHEALS score .
CONCLUSIONS: Chinese adults with a higher socioeconomic status had higher eHealth literacy and sought more web-based information on COVID-19; both these factors were associated with a high adherence to the guidelines for preventive behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.