Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lower literacy means poor health and poor health care access for older people

30.05.2006


People aged 70 years and older with limited literacy skills are one and one half to two times as likely to have poor health and poor health care access as people with adequate or higher reading ability, according to a study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.



Elders with limited literacy, which the researchers define as a reading level lower than ninth grade, were one and a half times more likely than other study participants to report poor overall health and diabetes, and twice as likely to report depression. The study authors note that self-reported health has been found in other studies to correlate strongly with actual health.

The study of 2,512 community-dwelling elders between the ages of 70 and 79 revealed that one in four had limited literacy. In practical terms, these elders "may have trouble reading basic health information or pill bottle instructions," according to lead author Rebecca Sudore, MD, a staff physician at SFVAMC.


The study appears in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

The researchers also found that people with a sixth-grade or lower reading level were twice as likely as the ninth-grade and above group to have poor access to health care, as measured by lacking a regular doctor or place of care, a flu shot within the previous year, or insurance to cover medication. Subjects with a seventh- to eighth-grade reading level also had less health care access compared to the ninth-grade group, but after accounting for other factors the differences were not statistically significant, according to Sudore.

The study authors emphasize that all results were adjusted for, and therefore independent of, patients’ socioeconomic background and level of education.

"As a geriatrician, the results of this study break my heart," says Sudore, who is also an assistant adjunct professor of medicine at UCSF. "Elders already have the highest medication and disease burden. Adding limited literacy to the list of problems makes these elders particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes, as we found in our study."

The study analyzed data from in-person interviews of participants in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study conducted by the National Institute on Aging. Study subjects lived independently in the community in Memphis, Tenn., or Pittsburgh, Penn. The study excluded participants with dementia or poor physical functioning.

"Elders with limited literacy have a hard time reading their pill bottles, managing their diseases, filling out needed forms for their care, and being able to navigate through the health care system," notes Sudore. "Unfortunately, in this study, we found that the very group of elders who would benefit from having more access to health care actually had worse access. Since the elders in our study were fairly well-functioning, problems accessing care and managing disease are likely to be even worse for frailer elders."

The design of the study precluded an exploration of the reasons for the links between literacy, health, and health access, says Sudore, but she offers some possible explanations: "Patients with limited literacy may not understand instructions given to them by their clinicians, or grasp the importance of follow-up care. In addition, there may be elements of fear or intimidation or lack of trust in the health care establishment." Plus, she says, limited literacy may prevent elders from being able to properly fill out forms needed to obtain medical resources such as insurance and medications.

Sudore points out that among the study participants, literacy did not necessarily correlate with level of education, "which suggests that simply asking if someone graduated from high school will not tell you whether the person can understand his or her physician or read a prescription bottle. For our patients’ sake, we need to be careful not to make assumptions about literacy skills. It is our responsibility, as clinicians, to talk to and to educate all of our patients in a way that they can understand."

Sudore says further research is needed to identify interventions that would prevent poor health outcomes in these "vulnerable elders." She points to multidisciplinary education programs that have been shown to be successful in geriatric and low-literacy populations. "Combining these two efforts may be what is needed," she speculates.

In the long run, predicts Sudore, successful interventions would save money for taxpayers: "People with limited literacy skills have worse health outcomes, poor access to health care – as our study showed – and are more likely to get their care in the emergency room and to be hospitalized, which has been shown to incur higher health care costs."

Steve Tokar | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ncire.org

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>