Sweden: Women feel less safe online than men

Women and computers.
Women and computers. Photo: Headway/Unsplash

Women feel less safe than men when using the Internet, and among people aged over 75 years, women tend to use the Internet less than men, a new study carried out in Sweden’s Västra Götaland region shows.

According to a press release from the World Health Organization the data revealed significant differences between men and women in perceptions of Internet safety in all age groups. In addition, people with disabilities and long-term health conditions were found to be at higher risk of digital exclusion, which means that these groups are less likely to benefit from digital technologies for health.

The research, based on regional data from the Swedish National Public Health Survey in 2022, involved over 30 000 participants aged 16–105 years. By assessing people’s comfort and safety when using the Internet, the study aimed to identify those affected by digital exclusion and non-users of the Internet. It examined demographic disparities, with a particular focus on age, gender, socioeconomic status, migration background, disability and chronic health conditions.

The results were unveiled during the annual meeting of the WHO Regions for Health Network (RHN) in Seville, Spain. The findings have important implications for digital health policy and align with an earlier study, jointly conducted by WHO/Europe and Public Health Wales, which also warned of inequities in digital health use in Europe among older adults, ethnic minority groups and people with less advanced education or socioeconomic status.

Digital divide

Addressing inequities in access and use is integral to creating accessible digital health services, aligning with the global health agenda promoted by the RHN. Delegates recognized the need for collaborative efforts to develop policies and interventions that bridge the digital health divide and ensure that the benefits of digital health are accessible to all, regardless of age, gender, ability or health status.

WHO/Europe’s report Digital health in the WHO European Region 2023 also warns about uneven deployment and uptake of digital health solutions, indicating that millions of people in the WHO European Region are at risk of being left behind. WHO calls for targeted investment in the digital health literacy of health providers and patients.


Guided by the Regional digital health action plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030, WHO supports countries in governing digital transformation in the health sector and advancing digital health literacy. The presentation of the study at the RHN annual meeting could serve as a catalyst for future initiatives aimed at fostering inclusivity and equality in accessing digital health services, aligning with the RHN’s mission to advance health and well-being through collaborative action.