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Latest Reports/Studies

Low literacy results in higher mortality rate

A study by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that older people with inadequate health literacy had a 50 percent higher mortality rate over a period of five years than those with adequate literacy.

Low health literacy is second only to smoking as the top predictor of mortality. Low health literacy is defined as the inability to read and comprehend basic materials like medicine bottles and prescription forms. The study was published in Archives of Internal Medicine on July 23, 2007.

More than 75 million adults in the United States have only basic or below basic health literacy, according to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

The study began in 1997 and 3,260 Medicare patients ages 65 and older were interviewed in Cleveland, Tampa, Miami and San Antonio.

Participants completed a test of health literacy, which involved reading passages and health-related materials such as pill bottles that required understanding numbers. In 2003, researchers determined which participants had died during the six years after being interviewed by matching their names against the National Death Index.