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One-Quarter of Elders May Have Poor Health Literacy

Risk increases among those who are black, poor, male, uneducated and diabetic

THURSDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one-quarter of elderly people surveyed in two U.S. cities have only limited health literacy, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Rebecca L. Sudore, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues assessed the health literacy, demographics, socioeconomic status and health care access of 2,512 black and white older people in Memphis, Tenn., and Pittsburgh.

Participants' mean age was 75.6. Fifty-two percent were women and 38 percent were black. The researchers found health literacy limited -- that is, below a ninth-grade level -- in 24 percent of participants.

Being black, a man, poor, poorly educated, diabetic, depressed, and in what one considered poor to fair health were connected with lower health literacy, the researchers report. Being older with a sixth grade or lower reading ability doubled the risk of insufficient access to health care.

"Limited health literacy was prevalent and was associated with low socioeconomic status, comorbidities and poor access to health care, suggesting that it may be an independent risk factor for health disparities in older people," the authors conclude.

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