Measurement of digital literacy among older adults: Systematic review

Sarah Soyeon Oh, Kyoung A. Kim, Minsu Kim, Jaeuk Oh, Sang Hui Chu, Ji Yeon Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Numerous instruments are designed to measure digital literacy among the general population. However, few studies have assessed the use and appropriateness of these measurements for older populations. Objective: This systematic review aims to identify and critically appraise studies assessing digital literacy among older adults and to evaluate how digital literacy instruments used in existing studies address the elements of age-appropriate digital literacy using the European Commission’s Digital Competence (DigComp) Framework. Methods: Electronic databases were searched for studies using validated instruments to assess digital literacy among older adults. The quality of all included studies was evaluated using the Crowe Critical Appraisal Tool (CCAT). Instruments were assessed according to their ability to incorporate the competence areas of digital literacy as defined by the DigComp Framework: (1) information and data literacy, (2) communication and collaboration, (3) digital content creation, (4) safety, and (5) problem-solving ability, or attitudes toward information and communication technology use. Results: Searches yielded 1561 studies, of which 27 studies (17 cross-sectional, 2 before and after, 2 randomized controlled trials, 1 longitudinal, and 1 mixed methods) were included in the final analysis. Studies were conducted in the United States (18/27), Germany (3/27), China (1/27), Italy (1/27), Sweden (1/27), Canada (1/27), Iran (1/27), and Bangladesh (1/27). Studies mostly defined older adults as aged ≥50 years (10/27) or ≥60 years (8/27). Overall, the eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS) was the most frequently used instrument measuring digital literacy among older adults (16/27, 59%). Scores on the CCAT ranged from 34 (34/40, 85%) to 40 (40/40, 100%). Most instruments measured 1 or 2 of the DigComp Framework’s elements, but the Mobile Device Proficiency Questionnaire (MDPQ) measured all 5 elements, including “digital content creation” and “safety.” Conclusions: The current digital literacy assessment instruments targeting older adults have both strengths and weaknesses, relative to their study design, administration method, and ease of use. Certain instrument modalities like the MDPQ are more generalizable and inclusive and thus, favorable for measuring the digital literacy of older adults. More studies focusing on the suitability of such instruments for older populations are warranted, especially for areas like “digital content creation” and “safety” that currently lack assessment. Evidence-based discussions regarding the implications of digitalization for the treatment of older adults and how health care professionals may benefit from this phenomenon are encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26145
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Brain Korea 21 FOUR Project funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea, Yonsei University College of Nursing. This study received funding from the National Research Foundation of Korea (grant number 2020R1A6A1A0304198911 [SO, KK, and JC]), the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017S1A3A2067165 [SC]), and Yonsei University College of Nursing Faculty Research Fund (6-2020-0188 [SC and JC]).

Publisher Copyright:
© Sarah Soyeon Oh, Kyoung-A Kim, Minsu Kim, Jaeuk Oh, Sang Hui Chu, JiYeon Choi.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'Measurement of digital literacy among older adults: Systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this