Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication

Document Type



This study explored the relationship between information seeking and the perceived stress levels of informal Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. An additional component was added to determine whether health literacy and emotional state moderated the relationship.

The study involved conducting qualitative interviews followed by collecting survey data to answer the following research questions: 1) What motivating factors lead informal AD caregivers to seek out information? How do their information needs change? Why do informal caregivers choose to utilize certain resources more than others? Is there a correlation between information seeking and resulting stress levels? Does health literacy moderate the association between information seeking and stress? The study also investigated the following hypothesis: Informal caregivers with low health literacy and low self-efficacy will have increased stress levels and those who have high health literacy and high self-efficacy will have decreased stress levels.

Qualitative findings revealed that caregivers tend to rely on mediated resources that they find credible, and interpersonal resources such as people with similar experiences to their own. Many participants were satisfied with information available, but others felt that their interactions with healthcare professionals created more stress and emotional anguish than anticipated. Quantitative results supported qualitative results in showing that participant information needs change based on care recipient needs. Results also showed that overall, there was no correlation between information seeking and perceived stress levels; however, there was a significant difference between low-level information seekers and mid-level information seekers. Additionally, health literacy does not moderate the relationship between information seeking and perceived stress, but emotional state and self-efficacy were significant predictors of perceived stress.

This study offers an initial step in finding ways that mediated communication can meet the healthcare needs of those who attempt to fill their information needs. The study also reiterated the idea that in many cases, it is necessary to combine the efforts of mediated and interpersonal communication to have the greatest effect.



Committee Chair

Grimm, Joshua