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Health Promot Int. 2018 Oct 1;33(5):739-747. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dax012.

Health literacy in old age: results of a German cross-sectional study.

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Department of Health Services Research and Nursing Science, School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstraße 25, Bielefeld, Germany.
Professor of Public Health and Education, Hertie School of Governance, Friedrichstraße 180, Berlin, Germany.


Health literacy is especially important for older people to maintain or enhance remaining health resources and self-management skills. The aim of the study was to determine the level of health literacy and the association between health literacy, demographic and socio-economic factors in German older adults aged 65 years and above stratified by age group. Health literacy was assessed via computer-assisted personal interviews using HLS-EU-Q47 on a representative sample of the German-speaking population. Descriptive statistics, bivariate analyses and logistic regression modelling stratified by age group were conducted to assess health literacy of 475 respondents aged 65 years and above. Overall, 66.3% of all respondents aged 65 years and above had limited health literacy. Limited health literacy was especially prevalent among respondents above 76 years of age (80.6%). Limited health literacy was associated with financial deprivation (OR: 3.05; 95% CI: 1.99-4.67) and limited functional health literacy (OR: 2.16; 95% CI: 1.29-3.61). Financial deprivation was strongest predictor for limited health literacy in the total sample and stratified by age group. Limited health literacy is a frequent phenomenon in German adults aged 65 years and above. Research on health literacy in old age and the role in health disparities is urgently needed.


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