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The Gerontologist 46:669-676 (2006)
© 2006 The Gerontological Society of America

Correlates of Health Literacy in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure

Dan Morrow, PhD1, Dan Clark, PhD2, Wanzhu Tu, PhD2, Jingwei Wu, MS3, Michael Weiner, MD2, Douglas Steinley, PhD4 and Michael D. Murray, PharmD5

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Dan Morrow, PhD, Beckman Institute of Advanced Science & Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail: dgm{at}

Purpose: Many older adults have inadequate health-related literacy, which is associated with poor health outcomes. Thus, it is important to identify determinants of health literacy. We investigated relationships between health literacy and general cognitive and sensory abilities, as well as education, health, and demographic variables, in a community sample of middle-aged and older adults.  Design and Methods: Participants were 314 community-dwelling adults (67% female, 48% African American) diagnosed with chronic heart failure recruited for a pharmacist-based intervention study to improve adherence to chronic heart failure medications. We adminstered demographic, health, education, cognitive (e.g., processing speed, working memory), and sensory measures, and the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (STOFHLA), as part of the baseline condition of this study. Results: STOFHLA scores were lower for participants who were older, less educated, male, African American, had more comorbidities, or scored lower on all cognitive ability measures. Hierarchical linear regression analyses showed that education and cognitive ability were independently associated with the STOFHLA measure and explained age differences in health literacy. Implications: The association of cognitive abilities and literacy has important implications for health literacy models and for interventions to reduce the impact of low health literacy on health outcomes. For example, medication instructions should be designed to reduce comprehension demands on general cognitive abilities as well as literacy skills.

Key Words: Health literacy • Cognitive ability • Health communication • Heart failure

This article has been cited by other articles:

Home page
J Aging HealthHome page
D. G. Morrow, M. Weiner, D. Steinley, J. Young, and M. D. Murray
Patients' Health Literacy and Experience With Instructions: Influence Preferences for Heart Failure Medication Instructions
J Aging Health, August 1, 2007; 19(4): 575 - 593.
[Abstract] [PDF]

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Copyright © 2006 by The Gerontological Society of America.