Health Literacy, Health Disparities, and Sources of Health Information in U.S. Older Adults

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Low health literacy in older adults has been associated with poor health outcomes (i.e., mortality, decreased physical and cognitive functioning, and less preventive care utilization). Many factors associated with low health literacy are also associated with health disparities. Interaction with healthcare providers and sources of health information are influenced by an individual's health literacy and can impact health outcomes.

PURPOSE:

This study examined the relationships between health literacy, sources of health information, and demographic/background characteristics in older adults (aged 65 years and older) related to health literacy and disparities.

METHODS:

This descriptive, correlational study is a secondary analysis of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, a large-scale national assessment.

RESULTS:

Older adults with lower health literacy have less income and education, rate their health as poor or fair, have visual or auditory difficulties, need help filling out forms, reading newspaper, or writing notes, and use each source of health information less (print and nonprint). Many of these characteristics and skills are predictive of health literacy and associated with health disparities.

CONCLUSION:

The results expand our knowledge of characteristics associated with health literacy and sources of health information used by older adults. Interventions to improve health outcomes including health disparities can focus on recognizing and meeting the health literacy demands of older adults.

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