How prevalent is low health literacy?
Low health literacy is very common.
Approximately 36% of adult Americans have only basic or below basic health literacy skills.2
- They may be able to read and understand a simple appointment slip or patient education brochure.
- They would experience difficulty with more complex information such as prescription drug labels or informed consent documents.
Only 12% of Americans are considered proficient in their health literacy skills.
- They have a sufficient level of health literacy to navigate our complex health system, engage in complex medical discussions, and fully participate in managing their health.
Certain demographic subgroups are at greater risk of having low health literacy, including
- people with lower educational attainment
- the elderly
- underserved minority groups
For example, among Latinos, an estimated 66% have basic or below basic health literacy skills.
2Kutner M, Greenberg E, Jin Y, Paulsen C. The Health Literacy of America's Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006-483). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; 2006.