Background: Chronic disease prevalence is increasing, in part due to the ageing population, adding further pressure to Australia’s over-stretched primary health care services. While patients are encouraged to self-manage their chronic disease(s) in order to minimise the impact on their day-to-day functioning, little is known about where older adults receive health information and their perceptions of the reliability of these sources. Such knowledge would facilitate the development of self-management support strategies using health information sources that are acceptable to older adults.
Methods: A cross-sectional design was utilised to investigate where older adults receive their health information and their perceptions of the perceived reliability of these sources. A paper-based survey was completed by 4,066 randomly selected adults (response rate = 46.8%) aged 55 years and older, who were resident in New South Wales, Australia.
Results: Doctors (96%), pharmacists (60%) and the Internet (24%) were the most frequent providers of health information. Less than one-fifth of respondents reported having received health information from a nurse (18%). However, the health information sources perceived to be the most reliable were doctors (98%), pharmacists (74%) and nurses (34%).
Discussion: Our results suggest that in Australia older adults primarily use doctors as a source of reliable health information and that nurses are under utilized in the provision of health information. The reasons for this need to be further investigated to ensure that nurses play an optimal role in the primary health care team. Although the Internet proved to be a popular source of health information, levels of perceived reliability were comparatively low. Future research should investigate whether the promotion of credible websites by health care professionals can overcome this barrier.