Friday, March 28, 2008

Daily reading linked with higher levels of health literacy

The single best predictor of higher levels of health literacy is the act of reading every day—even more so than someone’s education—says a new report released in February by the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL).

The report, Health Literacy in Canada: A Healthy Understanding, reveals that daily reading outside of work is associated with higher health-literacy scores—one-third higher than the average for those aged 16 to 65 and more than 50% higher for those 66 and older.

In 2007, CCL released initial results from an international literacy survey that showed 60% of Canadians lacked the necessary skills to manage their health and health-care needs adequately.

A Healthy Understanding builds on these results and provides new, in-depth analysis examining the relationship between levels of health literacy and the reported health of Canadians.

The report found:

  • Those with the lowest levels of health literacy are more than 2.5 times as likely to report being in poor or fair health as those with the highest levels.
  • Across Canada, the prevalence of diabetes increases significantly as health literacy decreases. A similar link—though not as strong—is found with high blood pressure.
  • The three most vulnerable populations for low levels of health literacy are seniors, the unemployed, and immigrants (especially those who don't speak French or English).
  • Health literacy is more complex than previously thought; requiring prose, document and numeracy skills, often in combination for the same task.
To view the full report and CCL’s new interactive online map, which offers health-literacy profiles for more than 49,000 communities and neighbourhoods across Canada, visit