Health literacy refers to “the achievement of a level of knowledge, personal skills and confidence to take action to improve personal and community health by changing personal lifestyles and living conditions.” Studies have shown a strong correlation between low health literacy and poor health outcomes. Health literacy levels are thought to more accurately predict health status than educational level, income, ethnic background or any other socio-demographic variable.
Despite the importance of health literacy in maintaining good health, little is known about the health literacy of people living with a mental illness. To increase our understanding, Neami undertook a study with the Illawarra Institute for Mental Health at the University of Wollongong to explore the health literacy of Neami staff and consumers.
Our findings were recently published in Psychiatry Research. The paper analyses responses from 325 consumers to the Health Literacy Questionnaire. Responses were analysed and grouped to create three health literacy profiles (low, moderate and high), and these were compared with other populations (general population, private hospital patients, men with prostate cancer, people attending substance dependence treatment, and older individuals with diabetes).
Across nine health domains, participants reported the highest scores in:
- Feeling supported and understood by healthcare providers, and
- Understanding health information well enough to know what to do
Participants reported lowest health literacy scores in:
- Appraising health information
- Navigating the healthcare system, and
- Finding good health information
Overall, consumers who participated in this study tended to have lower health literacy scores compared to other populations.
The findings highlight the need for support that helps people in navigating the healthcare system and finding high-quality health information. Neami are currently exploring ways to act on these findings.
Who is involved?
Neami National and the University of Wollongong