Can’t surf, won’t surf: The digital divide in mental health

Background: New health information technology (HIT) increasingly plays a role in health care as technology becomes cheaper and more widespread. However, there is a danger that those who do not use or have access to technology will not benefit from HIT innovations, thus creating a “digital divide”.

Aims: To assess the extent to which mental health service users have access to, skills in using and appetite for various technologies.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was used to assess technology use and access patterns of 121 people from community mental health services. Data were analysed using logistic regression.

Results: Technology use and access were very similar to that of the general population with older individuals reporting less familiarity, access and confidence across a range of technologies. Black, minority and ethnic (BME) groups were more likely to access computers outside of their own homes than white individuals. Older participants experiencing psychosis indicated a desire to increase their computer use.

Conclusions: The findings reported here contrast with recent evidence suggesting that those who do not engage with technology are “self-excluders”. Furthermore, BME groups may need extra support regarding provision of technology in order to engage with HIT.