Health Literacy of a Sample of Portuguese Elderly

Open access


This article presents the results of a study developed within the scope of the Project Health Literacy: a challenge in and for the elderly, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. It tried to evaluate the metric qualities of the Newest Vital Sign Test (NVS, Copyright © Pfizer Inc.) applied to elderly; evaluate the degree of health literacy of a sample of elderly Portuguese people; get to know the association between the degree of health literacy and some sociodemographic features, the general health state, and quality of life. It was conducted a quantitative study with 433 adults over 65 years of age, mostly female, and with heterogeneous levels of education. The instrument used was a battery of tests in order to assess the degree of health literacy (Newest Vital Sign), and the quality of life (WHOQOL). The NVS proved to be a reliable and sensitive to changes due to various demographic characteristics instrument. The results indicate that the majority of the participants (80%) showed a level of low health literacy, meaning that only 20% of respondents will be able to interpret and use effectively information related with health. Gender, educational attainment, age and marital status, as well as the perception of the elderly on their general health state and quality of life, proved to be variables that affect significantly the level of health literacy of participants. These results point to the urgent need to enhance health literacy in the elderly population, in general, and among the most vulnerable groups, in particular.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Baker D. Gazmararian J. Sudano J. & Patterson M. (2000). The association between age and health literacy among elderly persons. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 55(6) 368-374.

  • Baker D. Parker R. Williams M. Pitkin K. Parikh N. Coates W. & Imara M. (1996). The health care experience of patients with low literacy. Archives of Family Medicine 5(6) 329-334.

  • Barrett S. & Puryear J. (2006). Health literacy: improving quality of care in primary care settings. Journal of Health Care Poor Underserved 17 690-697.

  • Bennett I. Chen J. Soroui J. & White S. (2009). The contribution of health literacy to disparities in self-rated health status and preventive health behaviours in older adults. Annals of Family Medicine 7(3) 204-211.

  • Carvalho P. & Dias O. (2011). Adaptação dos idosos institucionalizados. Millenium 40 161

  • Cho Y. Lee S. Arozullah A. & Crittenden K. (2008). Effects of health literacy on health status and health service utilization amongst the elderly. Society Science Medical 66 1809–1816.

  • Davis T. Wolf M. Bass P. Middlebrooks M. Kennen E. Baker D. (2006). Low literacy impairs comprehension of prescription drug warning labels. Journal of General Internal Medicine 21 847–851.

  • Direcção-Geral da Saúde (2004). Programa nacional para a saúde das pessoas idosas. Circular normativa n.º13/DGCG.

  • Hammerschmidt K. & Lenardt M. (2010). Tecnologia educacional inovadora paraoempoderamento junto a idosos com Diabetes Mellitus. Texto & Contexto EnfermagemFlorianópolis 19(2) 358-365.

  • Husson O. Mols F. Fransen M. Poll-Franse L. & Ezendam N. (2015). Low subjective health literacy is associated with adverse health behaviours and worse health-related quality of life among colorectal cancer survivors: results from the profiles registry. Psycho-Oncology 24(4) 478-486.

  • Jovic-Vranes A. Bjegovic-Mikanovic V. & Marinkovic J. (2009). Functional health literacy among primary health-care patients: data from the Belgrade pilot study. Journal of Public Health 31(4) 490-495.

  • Kim S. (2009). Health literacy and functional health status in Korean older adults. Journal of Clinical Nursing 18 2337-2343.

  • Lee S. Tsai T. Tsai Y. & Kuo K. (2010). Health literacy health status and healthcare utilization of taiwanese adults: Results from a national survey. BMC Public Health 10 614.

  • Liu Y. Liu L. Li Y. & Chen Y. (2015). Relationship between health literacy health-related behaviours and health status: A survey of elderly Chinese. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 12 9714-9725.

  • Luís L. (2010). Literacia em saúde e alimentação saudável: os novos produtos e a escolha de alimentos (Tese de Doutoramento não publicada). Universidade Nova de Lisboa Lisboa Portugal.

  • Manafo E. & Wong S. (2012). Health literacy programs for older adults: a systematic literature review. Health Education Research 27(6) 947-960.

  • Nutbeam D. (2000). Health literacy as a public health goal: a challenge for contemporary health education and communication strategies into the 21st century. Health Promotion InternaTional 5(3) 259-267.

  • Osborn C. Paasche-Orlow M. Bailey S. & Wolf M. (2011). The mechanisms linking health literacy to behaviour and health status. American Journal of Health Behavior 35 (1) 118-128.

  • Rosa M. (2012). O envelhecimento da sociedade portuguesa. Lisboa: FFMS.

  • Reisi M. Javadzade S. Heydarabadi A. Mostafavi F. Tavassoli E. & Sharifirad G. (2014). The relationship between functional health literacy and health promoting behaviours among older adults Journal of Education and Health Promotion 29(3): 119.

  • Santos O. (2010). O papel da literacia em saúde: capacitando a pessoa com excesso de peso para o controlo e redução da carga ponderal. Endocrinologia Diabetes & Obesidade 4(3) 127-134.

  • Serrão C. Veiga S. Vieira I. Pereira V. Cadima J. Ralha S. Fonseca P. & Marques A. (2014a). Literacia em saúde: um desafio na e para a terceira idade - e-book. Santa Maria da Feira: Rainho & Neves.

  • Serrão C. Veiga S. Vieira I. Almeida V. Ribeiro S. Santos D. Cadima J. Ralha S. Fonseca P. & Marques A. (2014b). Literacia em Saúde: um desafio na e para a terceira idade - Manual de Boas Práticas. Maia: Tipografia Lessa-Florentino Martins Lessa & Filho.

  • Serrão C. Veiga S. & Vieira I. (2015). Literacia em saúde: resultados obtidos a partir de uma amostra de pessoas idosas portuguesas. Revista Portuguesa de Enfermagem de Saúde Mental Especial nº 2 33-38.

  • Speros C. (2005). Health literacy: concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing 50(6) 633-640.

  • Sudore R. L. Mehta K.M. Simonsick E.M. Harris T.B. Newman A.B. Satterfield S. & Yaffe K. (2006). Limited literacy in older people and disparities in health and healthcare access. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 54(5) 770-776.

  • Toçi E. Burazeri G. Sorensen Jerliu N. Ramadani N. Roshi E. & Brand H. (2013). Health literacy and socioeconomic characteristics among older people in transitional Kosovo. British Journal of Medicine & Medical Research 3(4) 1646-1658.

  • Wallace L. (2004). The impact of limited literacy on health promotion in the elderly. Californian Journal of Health Promotion 2(3) 1-4.

  • Wagner C. Knight K. Steptoe A. & Wardle J. (2007). Functional health literacy and health-promoting behaviour in a national sample of British adults. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 6 1086–1090.

  • Wallace L. Rogers E. & Weiss B. (2008). Relationship between health literacy and health-related quality of life among Tennesseans. Journal of the Tennessee Medical Association 101(5) 35-39.

  • Weiss B. D. Mays M. Z. Martz W. Castro K. M. DeWalt D. A Pignone M. P. & Mockbee J. (2005). Quick assessment of literacy in primary care: the newest vital sign. Annals of Family Medicine 3(6) 514-522.

  • Weiss B. & Palmer R. (2004). Relationship between health care costs and very low literacy skills in a medically needy and indigent medicaid population. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 17(1) 44–47.

  • Wolf M. Gazmararian J. & Baker D. (2005). Health literacy and functional health status among older adults. Archives of Internal Medicine 165 1946-1952.

  • World Health Organization (1997). WHOQOL – Measuring Quality of Life. Geneva: WHO.

  • World Health Organization (1998). Health Promotion Glossary. Geneva: WHO.

  • World Health Organization (2002). Active Ageing: A Policy Framework. Geneva: WHO.

Journal information
Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 378 146 7
PDF Downloads 154 86 2