March 19, 2012- Researchers from a new study say that 33% of older people who have problems reading and comprehending basic health information could be at an increased risk of dying. Literacy skill problems are already linked to a number of adverse health conditions.
Lower literacy in health is associated with poorer physical and mental health, less knowledge of diseases, higher hospital admissions and limited usage of preventive services.
University College of London researchers investigated the relationship between mortality in the elderly in England and health literacy. The study was irrespective of any risk factors such as age, pre-existing conditions and socio-economic status.
In 2004 over 7,850 adults 52 years and older took part in the study. Participants took part in a test of their functional health literacy. The test assessed their understanding of instructions about taking an aspirin. These instructions were written down. Deaths amongst the group members were monitored until late 2009.
On the follow up, 631 deaths had occurred: 321 deaths were in the group with high-test marks, 143 in the mid range test group and 157 in the lower group. One out of three adults could not completely understand the label instructions. That labeled them as having limited health literacy.
The adults that score the lowest in health literacy scores were over twice as apt to die in five years, as those were that had higher health literacy scores.