Digital Health Literacy Related to COVID-19 and Social Media Use among High School Students

Document Type : Original Article


1 Doctoral Program of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga Surabaya, Indonesia 60132

2 Department of Anatomy, Histology, and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga Surabaya, Indonesia 60132

3 Medical Program, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga, Surabaya, Indonesia 60132


Background and Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic raises a concern about the urgent issue of low levels of digital health literacy (DHL). Adequate DHL may mitigate the negative impacts of proliferating misinformation. This study was aimed at examining the COVID-19 related DHL levels and social media use as digital health information sources among high school students in East Java, Indonesia. The differences in DHL levels across sociodemographic factors, medical history, and social media preferences were also analyzed.

Material and Methods: This was a cross-sectional study, conducted in 2021, and enrolled high school students aged 15-18. The subjects were selected for convenience, with a minimum sample size of 384. An online questionnaire was shared through a survey platform. The sociodemographic variables and medical history were collected. The DHL measuring items were adapted from the validated DHL instrument developed in the COVID-19 context.  Data were analyzed with SPSS 17.0.

Results: We collected 432 responses. More than half of respondents (56.5%) have adequate DHL. Although 81.7 percent of respondents reported that searching for online information was easy, only 53.5 percent reported ease in appraising the reliability aspect. Fathers’ education varied by DHL. Students whose fathers hold post-graduate degrees showed a significantly higher level of DHL than those of lower educational backgrounds. Students experiencing COVID-19 infection of their own or close relatives showed higher total DHL and information search scores. Instagram and TikTok were the most frequently chosen social media as digital health information sources, but no significant difference in DHL across the preference for social media.

Conclusion: Even though the information can be obtained easily, there are still difficulties in evaluating its reliability. Considering the proportion of respondents with inadequate DHL, stakeholders in the health and education sectors need to develop DHL-promoting strategies for adolescents. Improvement in evaluating reliability should be the target of focus.


Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga for providing financial support.

Availability of data and materials: The authors confirm that the data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article

Conflicts of interests: The authors declare no conflict of interest

Consent for publication: All respondents have given consent for publication, provided that anonymity was ensured.

Ethical approval and consent to participate: This study was approved by the ethics committee of the Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga (No 136/EC/KEPK/FKUA/2021). Furthermore, the study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. All respondents and the school principal of each school gave consent for participation after reviewing the study protocol and questionnaire items.

Funding: This study was funded by RKAT Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga (No 388/UN3/2021).

Author contributions: NUH, AKR, and ADA conceptualized the main idea and designed the project. NUH acquired the funding. NUH, VIV, AKR, and ADA worked on data acquisition. NUH, AKR, ADA, INW, and VIV conducted data curation and formal analysis. NUH & INW wrote the original draft. NUH, AKR, ADA, and ARM reviewed and edited the draft. All author(s) read and approved the final manuscript

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