The latest survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found a huge spike in the number of older people going online, increasing from 29% in 2013 to more than 50% in 2020, along with more disabled people than ever getting online.
According to the data, 92% of adults in the UK were recent internet users in 2020, up from 91% in 2019. Almost all adults aged 16 to 44 years in the UK were recent internet users (99%), compared with 54% of adults aged 75 years and over.
While there has been little change in internet use for adults aged 16 to 44 years in recent years, the proportion of those aged 75 years and over who are recent internet users nearly doubled since 2013, from 29%, to 54% in 2020.
With that in mind, some 6.3% of adults in the UK had never used the internet in 2020, down from 7.5% in 2019.
The study also finds that The number of disabled adults who were recent internet users in 2020 reached almost 11 million, 81% of disabled adults; up from just over 10 million (78% of disabled adults) in 2019.
London continued to be the UK region with the highest recent internet use (95%) in 2020, while Northern Ireland remained the lowest at 88%.
The data reflects how the use of the web was changing in the UK pre-pandemic, but is also lijely to have been skewed by the pandemic rapidly changing the way everyone shops, the ONS warns.
According to a statement: “As the survey data for this release were collected in January to March 2020, there could be some impact from the pandemic on the survey results. The larger than usual growth in internet use by adults aged 75 years and over, could be partly related to the effects of the beginning of the pandemic and we therefore advise that results for this age group are treated with a degree of caution”.
Matthew O’Neill, Head of Networks at NTT DATA UK, commented: “The findings from ONS reconfirm the pressing need for ensuring everyone has equal access to connectivity. Internet access is no longer a privilege but a necessity, particularly for older generations. Not only does it enable isolated people to stay connected to one another, but it also offers access to essentials, such as groceries or household goods, for those unable to get around, thanks to online shopping.
“The UK government must continue to work with telecoms providers to ensure that more people have adequate and stable access to the internet. There are still large areas of the UK that are “disconnected” due to poor internet services, so improving connectivity and getting these areas online will be crucial as we start to realise the benefits for a fully connected society.”