For Hispanics in the U.S., Age and Ethnicity Impact Trust in Health Information

Health information tailored to ethnic subgroups or age group may be beneficial, according to a study in the AACR journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States. In making health care decisions, they sort through the same variety of information sources as other Americans – websites, newspapers, friends and family, and many others.  Scientists wanted to know – which sources do they trust the most? 

The answer, according to a recently published study, is doctors and other health care professionals, trusted by 91 percent of Hispanic people responding to a survey. The next most trusted sources were government health agencies (68 percent reported a high level of trust), the internet (63 percent), and charitable organizations (53 percent). 

“As a Latina, I would want fellow Hispanics to know that not all health information that is available may be credible and evidence-based,” said the study’s lead author, Marlene Camacho-Rivera, MS, MPH, ScD, assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, New York. “It is important to ask questions of health care providers, in order to make informed decisions, and not just take all information at face value.” 

Some other key findings of the study published in the AACR journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention

  • Hispanics age 75 and older were nearly three times as likely to trust health information from religious sources compared with those aged 18 to 34. 
  • Respondents of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent were twice as likely to trust information from print media compared with Mexican Americans. 
  • Trust in print media among Hispanics went down over time; respondents were 46 percent less likely to report high trust in print media between 2012 and 2018.  
  • Older Hispanics were more likely than younger Hispanics to trust in health information from non-medical sources, such as family, the internet, and faith-based organizations. 
  • Respondents who had lived in the United States for less than 10 years were nearly nine times more likely to trust information from government health agencies than those who had lived in the United States for more than 10 years or were U.S.-born. 
  • Hispanic women were more likely than Hispanic men to trust information from the internet and from religious organizations. 

“While we have seen increases in health information-seeking due to increased access to the internet, smartphones, and social media, we also recognize the potential for technology to exacerbate health disparities,” Camacho-Rivera said. “It is not enough for us to simply put information out into the public domain and expect individuals to act on it; we must also support community spaces and resources that can help people benefit from the information.”