Josipa Basic, Sanda Erdelez
University of Missouri, United States of America

Tuesday, November 10, 8:30am

Prior research shows that students use the Internet as a main source of health information. When starting college, students get greater autonomy over their behaviors and responsibility for their own health, which creates a number of health-related information needs. As a result of this newly acquired autonomy, students also frequently engage in various risky behaviors, putting their well-being in jeopardy. This study aimed to answer whether the self-reported frequency in which students engage in risky behaviors and their enrollment in health-related courses affect how frequently they obtain health-related information. A novel aspect of this study is that it incorporated both intentional and opportunistic information acquisition. An analysis of online survey responses from 810 undergraduates attending a mid-western U.S. university showed that the frequency of their engagement in risky behaviors (e.g., the use of substances and alcohol and engagement in high-risk sexual activities) is not significantly associated with the frequency of neither intentional nor opportunistic health information acquisition on the Internet. However, students enrolled in health-related courses more frequently obtain health information by both intentional search and opportunistic discovery. The study findings provide valuable directions for librarians and health educators on how to design new and improve existing e-health literacy instructions to better suit students’ current needs and information behavior patterns.