Health and self-perceived barriers to internet use among older migrants: a population-based study

Anne Kouvonen, Teemu Kemppainen, Sakari Taipale, Antero Olakivi, Sirpa Wrede, Laura Kemppainen

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In older adults, including those with a migrant background, ill health is associated with less internet use. However, it is not known what are the specific self-perceived barriers to internet use among older migrants with different health conditions. The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between different health conditions and self-perceived barriers to internet use among older migrants.


We used the Care, Health and Ageing of Russian-speaking Minority in Finland (CHARM) study, which is a nationally representative survey of community-dwelling Russian-speaking adults aged ≥50 years living in Finland (N=1082, 57% men, mean age 63.2 years, standard deviation 8.4 years, response rate 36%). Postal survey data were collected in 2019. Health indicators were self-rated health (SRH), depressive symptoms, cognitive functioning, and doctor-diagnosed conditions. Linear regression analyses were used to investigate the associations between health indicators and a summary scale consisting of the following barriers of internet use: (1) internet use is too complicated and hard to learn; (2) having concerns about safety issues; (3) internet use is too expensive; (4) physical limitations hinder the internet use; (5) memory problems hinder the internet use. In addition, the two most commonly reported barriers (the first two) were examined separately using logistic regression analyses. The analyses were adjusted for age, sex, education, marital status, local language proficiency, and income support, and the health conditions, and were performed with weights accounting for the survey design and non-response.


After adjustments, spine/back problems (b=0.13; p=0.049), depressive symptoms (b=0.40; p=0.007), and problems in learning new things (b=0.60; p<0.0005) were associated with higher level of overall barriers to internet use. In addition, a number of health conditions were associated with individual barriers, albeit some health conditions appeared protective.


In general, older migrants with declining health experience more barriers to internet use than their counterparts with better health. To provide better access to healthcare for older adults, including older migrants, rapidly changing devices, software and apps need to be modified and adapted for those with specific health-related needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number574
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date23 Mar 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 23 Mar 2022


  • Barriers to internet use
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Migrants
  • Chronic conditions
  • Digital information technology
  • Older adults
  • Depression
  • Internet use


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