Date Published: October 24, 2018
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Alistair Anderson, Italo Francesco Angelillo.
Antimicrobial resistance is a global public health problem with some socially patterned drivers. The objective of the study was to investigate associations between use of and trust in the Internet as a source of health-related information and the public’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours regarding antibiotics.
Two representative cross-sectional surveys (the 2015 Wellcome Monitor (n = 1524) and UK segment (n = 1330) of the 2016 Eurobarometer 85.1) covering knowledge about antibiotics and antibiotic consumption were analysed. Knowledge, attitude, and behaviour variables were analysed using regression in relation to demographic characteristics and use and trust in the Internet as a source of information.
The key findings of the analysis are that both use of the Internet as a source of medical research information (variable from the Wellcome Monitor) and trust in the Internet as a source of information about antibiotics (variable from the Eurobarometer) were independently and positively associated with knowledge, attitude, and behaviour regarding antibiotics. Additionally, knowledge about antibiotics was positively associated with behaviour with antibiotics (Wellcome Monitor) and attitude towards finishing antibiotic prescriptions (Eurobarometer). Higher levels of education were associated with better knowledge about antibiotics in both datasets. Older age was positively associated with behaviour and attitude regarding antibiotic consumption.
The Internet is a resource for disseminating quality health information that has the potential to improve stewardship of antibiotics in the community. This study suggests that members of the UK public that use the Internet as a source of health-related information are more likely to be better informed about, and be more responsible with, antibiotics. This mode of information dissemination should be capitalised on to improve antimicrobial stewardship, and further research should examine what the most effective online information sources are in the UK and to what extent their association with behaviour is causal.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global public health issue with both biological and social drivers. Educational interventions are often employed to improve public knowledge about antimicrobials and their appropriate use, with the aim of reducing socially patterned drivers such as inadherence to antibiotic courses or the pressuring of physicians by patients [1–7]. With health-related information becoming increasingly available to the public, the role of accessible resources of variable quality—such as the Internet—needs to be assessed with regard to the dissemination of information about antibiotics and their appropriate use.
This study analysed two random-probability sample surveys in order to assess the association between the Internet as a source of health-related information and the public’s knowledge relating to antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, and behaviour and attitudes regarding antibiotic consumption.
The positive independent associations found in both datasets between Internet variables and both knowledge and behaviour/attitude suggest that people in the UK who use the Internet for health-related information are more likely to be better informed about and be more responsible with antibiotic medication than people that do not. The plurality of avenues for information dissemination provided by the Internet should be capitalised on by healthcare providers in both human and veterinary medical settings, for example through the use of information prescriptions for patients that make routine use of the Internet in order to guide them to consistently high-quality sources of information.