A Profile of Older Americans: 2006
Special Topic: Health Literacy
Older adult have more chronic conditions, hospital admissions, doctor and ER visits, and expenditures for prescription drugs than younger age groups. Therefore, health literacy, i.e., the ability of individuals to understand basic health information, is critical to the ability of older persons to maintain good health. However, older adults have disproportionately lower health literacy than younger adults. In a recent national survey, the elderly had an average health literacy score within the basic health literacy performance level, while the averages for all other age groups fall into the intermediate performance group. As shown in Figure 10, older adults were also far more likely to have below basic (29%) or basic (30%) health literacy than any other age group.
Figure 10: Percentage of Adult in each Health Literacy Level, by age: 2003
(Source: The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006–483). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.)
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