Adapted digital health literacy and health information seeking behavior among lower income groups in Malaysia during the COVID-19 pandemic

Roy Rillera Marzo, Hana W.Jun Chen, Khadijah Abid, Shekhar Chauhan, Mark Mohan Kaggwa, Mohammad Yasir Essar, Jacynta Jayaram, Manah Chandra Changmai, Mohamad Khairuddin bin Adbul Wahab, Indang Ariati Binti Ariffin, Muhammad Najib Bin Mohamad Alwi, Michael G. Head, Yulan Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Misinformation has had a negative impact upon the global COVID-19 vaccination program. High-income and middle-income earners typically have better access to technology and health facilities than those in lower-income groups. This creates a rich-poor divide in Digital Health Literacy (DHL), where low-income earners have low DHL resulting in higher COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Therefore, this cross-sectional study was undertaken to assess the impact of health information seeking behavior on digital health literacy related to COVID-19 among low-income earners in Selangor, Malaysia. Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional study was conducted conveniently among 381 individuals from the low-income group in Selangor, Malaysia. The remote data collection (RDC) method was used to gather data. Validated interviewer-rated questionnaires were used to collect data via phone call. Respondents included in the study were 18 years and older. A normality of numerical variables were assessed using Shapiro-Wilk test. Univariate analysis of all variables was performed, and results were presented as means, mean ranks, frequencies, and percentages. Mann-Whitney U test or Kruskal Wallis H test was applied for the comparison of DHL and health information seeking behavior with characteristics of the participants. Multivariate linear regression models were applied using DHL as dependent variable and health information seeking behavior as independent factors, adjusting for age, gender, marital status, educational status, employment status, and household income. Results: The mean age of the study participants was 38.16 ± 14.40 years ranging from 18 to 84 years. The vast majority (94.6%) of participants stated that information seeking regarding COVID-19 was easy or very easy. Around 7 percent of the respondents cited reading information about COVID-19 on the internet as very difficult. The higher mean rank of DHL search, content, reliability, relevance, and privacy was found among participants who were widowed, had primary education, or unemployed. An inverse relationship was found between overall DHL and confidence in the accuracy of the information on the internet regarding COVID-19 (β = −2.01, 95% CI = −2.22 to −1.79). Conclusion: It is important to provide support to lower-income demographics to assist access to high-quality health information, including less educated, unemployed, and widowed populations. This can improve overall DHL.

Original languageEnglish
Article number998272
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2022


  • COVID-19
  • digital
  • health information seeking
  • health literacy
  • lower income

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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