Use of the internet

Use of the internet, particularly from mobile phones, is growing fast.

In 2011, 79 per cent of the UK population used the internet (anywhere and on any device) – up from 59 per cent in 2005 (1).

Almost a third (31 per cent) of people used their smart phone every week to go online in 2011 (three times as many as in 2009) (1).

UK population use of mobile phone and internet


Source: Office of Communications (2012). Report. Adults media use and attitudes

The 'digital divide'

Different groups in society vary in their levels of access to and use of technology (the 'digital divide'). In 2011 only 41 per cent of people aged over 65 years and 60 per cent of socio-economic class DE households accessed the internet at home (1).

In households without an internet connection, 19 per cent said costs were too high, 21 per cent said they lacked skills and half said they 'did not need it' (2). The group of non-users included high proportions of people with disabilities and with no educational qualifications (3).

Home internet access among UK consumers, by age and gender, 2009–2011


Source: Office of Communications (2011). Report. The Communications Market Report: United Kingdom

Digital communications offer new ways to interact with patients and service users, but some patients are currently not able to take advantage of this.

Given the growth in the use of mobiles to access the internet, as well as the increasing use of telehealth, we can expect the digital divide to narrow, and over time to disappear. The highest recent growth in internet use has been among older people (3).

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  1. Office of Communications (2012). Report. Adults media use and attitudes report
  2. Office for National Statistics (2011). Statistical bulletin. Internet Access Households and Individuals, 2011
  3. Von Abrams K (2010). Report. UK Internet Users and Usage: Top 2010 Trends