Article Abstract

“I Feel Like A Neurotic Mother at Times”—a mixed methods study exploring online health information seeking behaviour in new parents

Authors: Amy Rathbone, Julie Prescott


Background: In contemporary society, due to the exponential growth of technology and the online platform, data acquisition has never been so effortless. Subsequent accessibility to health information has been reported as having many positive and negative effects. Health anxiety is the apprehension of experiencing or developing an ailment due to symptomology misinterpretation. One such lifetime occurrence which causes increased anxiety is becoming a new parent. New parents often use the online platform to seek information which will educate them on how best to care for their child and to keep their child’s health at the optimum level.
Methods: The online Pregnancy Questionnaire used within this study was inclusive of the Short HAI Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI) and was tailored for both pregnant women and new parents. This study focuses specifically on the results provided by the new parents. The research was disseminated and advertised on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and a purpose-built website named “A Healthy Search” which provided all information relevant to the study and participation. Quantitative data were analysed using a regression and qualitative data were thematically analysed.
Results: Results shows that medical complications in pregnancy did not significantly predict health anxiety however medical care within the past year did. It can also be seen that frequency of searching online for self, did not significantly predict health anxiety, yet searching online for child did significantly predict health anxiety. Anxiety specific to pregnancy ceases when gravidity comes to an end and feelings of health anxiety then tend to be transferred from the mother (parent) to the child when one becomes a new parent. New parents strive to expand their own knowledge base, in regards to typical and atypical symptomology, so that they are better equipped to monitor development, care for, and make decisions on behalf of their child. The online platform was used as opposed to offline provisos due to inexperience, judgement and anonymity. Online health information seeking behaviour also has the probability of both increasing and decreasing levels of anxiety in new parents.
Conclusions: This research recognised and reinforced positive and negative aspects of online health information seeking behaviour. It is recommended that further research be carried out into relevant, efficacious interventional techniques that may relieve health anxiety within new parents as contemporary technology has become a pivotal aspect of life.