Health status of illiterate adults: relation between literacy and health status among persons with low literacy skills.

B. D. Weiss, G. Hart, D. L. McGee, S. D'Estelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

204 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: In nonindustrialized nations, illiteracy is independently associated with poor health. The objective of this research was to determine whether such a relation exists in the United States. METHODS: One hundred ninety-three persons were randomly selected from a group of adult students enrolled in a publicly funded literacy training program. Subjects' health status was measured with the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP), a behaviorally based measure of sickness-related dysfunction. Subjects' literacy skills were also measured. Multivariate statistical techniques were then used to evaluate the relation between health status and literacy level and to adjust for confounding sociodemographic factors. RESULTS: The physical health (measured by the SIP) of subjects with extremely low reading levels was poor compared with that of subjects with higher reading levels. The relation between reading level and physical health was statistically significant (P less than 0.002), even after adjusting for confounding sociodemographic variables. Psychosocial health (measured by the SIP) was poor across all levels of reading skills and was comparable with the psychosocial health of populations with severe psychosocial disability. The relation between reading level and psychosocial health was statistically significant (P less than 0.02) after adjusting for confounding variables. CONCLUSIONS: In the United States, illiteracy and poor health status are independently associated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-264
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of the American Board of Family Practice / American Board of Family Practice
Volume5
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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