The moderating effects of disability on mobile internet use among older adults: a population-based cross-sectional study

Background: Preferred devices for accessing the Internet are shifting from personal computers to mobile devices, and the number of older adults with and without disabilities is increasing rapidly in an aging society. However, little is known about the moderating effects of disability on mobile internet use among older people. Objective: This study aimed to examine the levels of mobile Internet use and the factors associated with this use among older people according to their disability. In addition, the moderating effects of disability on mobile internet use were investigated. Methods: This study consisted of secondary data analysis using the 2020 Digital Divide Survey conducted in South Korea. The only inclusion criterion was that the participants were aged 55 or older; thus, 2243 non-disabled people and 1386 disabled people were included in the study. Multiple regression analyzes taking into account complex sampling designs were conducted to identify drivers of mobile Internet use and to test the moderating effects of disability on mobile Internet use. Results: Seniors with disabilities used mobile Internet less than seniors without disabilities. However, disability status had moderating effects on the relationships between mobile internet use and (1) operational skills regarding mobile devices (B = 0.31, P=.004), (2) internet skills (B=1.46, PP=0.01), and (4) attitude towards new technologies (B=0.50, P=.002). The results revealed that these positive relationships were stronger in older adults with disabilities than in adults without disabilities. Conclusions: Although older people and people with disabilities are considered vulnerable populations when it comes to technology adoption, disability creates a stronger association between multiple determinants and actual mobile internet use. Therefore, policymakers and practitioners should pay attention to older persons with disabilities to provide appropriate information literacy education. Older people with disabilities could be the main beneficiaries of mobile services and new technologies.

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