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Over-55s more likely to shop online than under-25s

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More 'silver surfers' shop online than the generation that has grown up with the internet, a new study has found.

A report from the British Population Survey found that there are three people aged 55 or older shopping online for every two people aged under 25. The Internet – Engagement and Use in Britain quizzed more than 250,000 people in face-to-face interviews to find out who has, or has not, access to the internet, and how this has changed in the last three years. It found that while under 25s, which it dubs the iLifer generation, are more likely to take part in downloading music and films, social networking and onine gaming, it is the older internet users who are keener shoppers.

Mike Hare, research director, said: “Our latest figures are starting to reveal distinct differences in attitude to the internet between the generations. While the Silver Surfers tend towards the more practical and economic benefits, iLifers regard the internet as a source of entertainment and social activity.”

The survey found that access to the internet grew faster in 2010, with 2.75m new users, than in 2009. Over-65s are the fastest growing group of new internet users and now account for one in 10 British users. In all, eight out of 10 Britons now have the internet, while five out of 10 shop online and four out of 10 use online banking.

However lower social and income groups are twice as likely not to have the internet.

Hare said: “From the Digital Britain perspective it should be a cause for thought that we may be in danger of creating a regressive state. We need to think carefully about the fact that we have over 10 million people, or one in five of our population, without internet access, and that out of those, three-quarters have only GCSEs or NVQ1 or no qualifications, 40% of them are in the D and E social grades, 70% are over 55 and 70% live in the North and Midlands.

“Perhaps it is time to start regarding truly national internet access as a measure of a progressive society as much at home as we do in other countries.”

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