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Understanding health literacy and eHealth literacy among individuals with spinal cord injury : a mixed-methods study Singh, Gurkaran


Introduction: With recent advancements in internet technologies, the field of eHealth has grown as a medium for facilitating self-care. As eHealth transitions into becoming the new standard for providing healthcare in the twenty-first century, it is important to make sure that no one gets left behind. This purpose of this research was to (1) evaluate eHealth literacy levels among individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), (2) find predictors of eHealth literacy, (3) explore how they seek health information, (4) learn about their experiences with internet-based health resources, and (5) identify barriers and facilitators to their engagement with eHealth technologies. Methods: This research used a mixed-methods design. A total of 30 community-dwelling individuals with SCI were recruited. Quantitative survey data were collected on participants’ eHealth literacy, general health literacy, and demographic data. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a subset of study participants (n=20). Results: The average age of participants was 46 years old, and 15 participants were male and 15 were female. A total of 23 participants experienced traumatic SCI and 7 participants experienced non-traumatic SCI. Participants demonstrated moderate levels of eHealth literacy (30.7 out of 40) and general health literacy (18 out of 20). Significant, positive correlations were found between general health literacy and demographic factors, including age, income, and education. Employment status prior to SCI (employed vs not employed) was found to be a significant predictor of eHealth literacy. Participants’ living arrangement (alone vs not alone) was found to be a significant predictor of general health literacy. Three overarching themes emerged from a qualitative analysis of participants’ experiences with eHealth technologies, which include eHealth technologies’ role in (1) bridging a trust gap with users, (2) being accessible to individuals with SCI, and (3) serving as a facilitator for social engagement. Conclusion: This study demonstrated the diverse range of eHealth literacy levels in SCI populations and how users experience eHealth technologies. Long term, these findings may serve a tool to inform health technology developers and researchers on how to provide more accessible and easy-to-use eHealth technologies for individuals with SCI.

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