BRUSSELS: Increasing numbers of European consumers are participating in online activities like ecommerce and social networking, but nearly a quarter of people are still yet to use the web.

According to new data from Eurostat, the international statistics body, online penetration across the 27 member states of the European Union has hit 73% of households, up from 49% in 2006.

When looking at the individual level, it reported that 24% of 16-74 year olds had not yet engaged in this pastime, despite the rapid growth of the medium among consumers, companies and governments.

"For many people today it seems difficult to live without the internet, however a decreasing, but still non-negligible, part of the EU population has never used it," the study said.

The countries where the web has the longest reach were the Netherlands on 94%, Sweden and Luxembourg on 91% and Denmark on 90%.

The UK logged the strongest totals of the region's "big five" economies on 85%, beating Germany's 83%, France's 76%, Spain's 64% and Italy's 62%.

By contrast, figures stood at just 45% in Bulgaria and 47% in Romania, although these ratings had climbed substantially from 2006.

Elsewhere, the study found 56% of people accessed the web either "every day or "almost every day", and 68% did so at least once a week.

Nearly 80% of netizens used the internet to look for details about goods and services in 2011, while 56% had read news online, and 54% had sought out health or travel information.

Another 53% of consumers have now signed up to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, coming in at 10% for professional networks including LinkedIn.

Turning to ecommerce, the analysis revealed 58% of the internet audience had made purchases over the web in the last year, expanding by a single percentage point from 2010.

Uptake rates again varied greatly by country, Eurostat said, with the UK posting 82%, ahead of Denmark and Germany, both on 77%, leading the way.

Data sourced from Eurostat; additional content by Warc staff