Measuring Electronic Health Literacy : Development, Validation, and Test of Measurement Invariance of a Revised German Version of the eHealth Literacy Scale

Background: The World Wide Web has become an essential source of health information. Nevertheless, the amount and quality of information provided may lead to information overload. Therefore, people need certain skills to search for, identify, and evaluate information from the internet. In the context of health information, these competencies are summarized as the construct of eHealth literacy. Previous research has highlighted the relevance of eHealth literacy in terms of health-related outcomes. However, the existing instrument assessing eHealth literacy in the German language reveals methodological limitations regarding test development and validation. The development and validation of a revised scale for this important construct is highly relevant.

Objective: The objective of this study was the development and validation of a revised German eHealth literacy scale. In particular, this study aimed to focus on high methodological and psychometric standards to provide a valid and reliable instrument for measuring eHealth literacy in the German language.

Methods: Two internationally validated instruments were merged to cover a wide scope of the construct of eHealth literacy and create a revised eHealth literacy scale. Translation into the German language followed scientific guidelines and recommendations to ensure content validity. Data from German-speaking people (n=470) were collected in a convenience sample from October to November 2020. Validation was performed by factor analyses. Further, correlations were performed to examine convergent, discriminant, and criterion validity. Additionally, analyses of measurement invariance of gender, age, and educational level were conducted.

Results: Analyses revealed a 2-factorial model of eHealth literacy. By item-reduction, the 2 factors information seeking and information appraisal were measured with 8 items reaching acceptable-to-good model fits (comparative fit index [CFI]: 0.942, Tucker Lewis index [TLI]: 0.915, root mean square error of approximation [RMSEA]: 0.127, and standardized root mean square residual [SRMR]: 0.055). Convergent validity was comprehensively confirmed by significant correlations of information seeking and information appraisal with health literacy, internet confidence, and internet anxiety. Discriminant and criterion validity were examined by correlation analyses with various scales and could partly be confirmed. Scalar level of measurement invariance for gender (CFI: 0.932, TLI: 0.923, RMSEA: 0.122, and SRMR: 0.068) and educational level (CFI: 0.937, TLI: 0.934, RMSEA: 0.112, and SRMR: 0.063) were confirmed. Measurement invariance of age was rejected.

Conclusions: Following scientific guidelines for translation and test validation, we developed a revised German eHealth Literacy Scale (GR-eHEALS). Our factor analyses confirmed an acceptable-to-good model fit. Construct validation in terms of convergent, discriminant, and criterion validity could mainly be confirmed. Our findings provide evidence for measurement invariance of the instrument regarding gender and educational level. The newly revised GR-eHEALS questionnaire represents a valid instrument to measure the important health-related construct eHealth literacy.


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