Reading broadens the mind, as they say. But reading health-related material – and understanding it -- can lengthen your life.
That’s the key finding of new research showing one in three older people who have difficulty reading and understanding basic health-related information may be at increased risk of death.
The study, published online in the British Medical Journal, found people with poor health literacy are less knowledgeable about chronic diseases, have poorer mental and physical health, limited use of preventive services and much higher rates of admissions to hospital than those with greater knowledge.
For the study, researchers at University College London tracked 7,857 adults -- aged 52 years and older -- who completed a test of functional health literacy, which assessed such things as understanding the written instructions for taking an aspirin, for a period of five years.
During the study period, 621 deaths occurred. Researchers found adults with the lowest health literacy scores were more than twice as likely to die within five years as those with the highest scores.
“The findings should remind all healthcare professionals to adopt effective communication techniques for patients with low health literacy,” they concluded.