Poor Reading Skills Among Senior Citizens Increase Mortality Rate

About one out of three elderly individual with poor reading skills more likely die, compared to others of the same age group.

Researchers from the the University College of London reported in their study that elderly people with poor reading skills have a difficult time to understand the severity or situation of their health condition, thus increasing their chances of dying earlier than the rest of their age group.

The findings have a major implication as to how the health care services are designed and delivered. "Health literacy" is described as the ability of an individual to read and understand health-related context. Health illiteracy meant lesser chances of preventing, curing and avoiding the problem, thus increasing mortality at an earlier time.

The research collected data from ELSA (English Longitudinal Study of Aging) which included 7,857 individuals at age 52. They were all assessed for functional health literacy - monitoring their level of comprehension regarding written instructions such as when to take an aspirin tablet. The research monitored the number of deaths up to October 2009.

The results were:

1. Only 6 per cent (321) in the highest test score group died.

2. Only 9 per cent (143) among the middle test score group died.

3. And 16 per cent (157) died in the low test score group.

This implies that, the ones with the lowest scores have two times the risk of dying within 5 years (during the study) as compared to the ones who scored the highest.

The authors stated that poor health literacy became a "significant predictor of mortality" among the elderly.

If the sample represented the general population, then about one third of the adult population suffer from poor health literacy, and those with the poorest literacy levels have the highest incidence of mortality.

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