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Health information unclear for many

Published on 19 March 2012 12:30 PM

A third of people over 65 do not fully understand the information displayed on medicine and other health-related products, according to a survey.

One in eight has relatively serious literacy problems and finds it difficult to make out the most basic of information, a study by University College London shows.

Researchers found that people who cannot easily understand the information are around twice as likely to die within five years, as those who have a good level of literacy.

Around 8,000 adults were tested on their ability to understand instructions similar to those written on a packet of aspirin.

Answering four questions, 67.5% of participants got the maximum score, suggesting high health literacy.

Another 20% made one mistake in their answers and were categorised as having medium-level literacy, while 12.5% (one in eight) answered two or more questions wrong.

Around half of those over 80 and a quarter of those aged 60 or below did not correctly answer all the questions.

Age UK's Michelle Mitchell said people need to be given information that makes sense to them, 'that way, patients will be better empowered to manage their own health conditions and make the positive lifestyle choices that lead to better health and wellbeing'.

The Patients Association said patients should be consulted when information leaflets are being produced to ensure the detail is 'relevant and clear'.

The study results appear in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal.

Copyright Press Association 2012


Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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