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10-01-2018 | Uitgave 5/2018 Open Access

Quality of Life Research 5/2018

Effect of health literacy on the quality of life of older patients with long-term conditions: a large cohort study in UK general practice

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 5/2018
Maria Panagioti, Suzanne M. Skevington, Mark Hann, Kelly Howells, Amy Blakemore, David Reeves, Peter Bower



The levels of health literacy in patients with long-term conditions (LTCs) are critical for better disease management and quality of life (QoL). However, the impact of health literacy on QoL in older adults with LTCs is unclear. This study examined the association between health literacy and domains of QoL in older people with LTCs, investigating key socio-demographic and clinical variables, as confounders.


A prospective cohort study was conducted on older adults (n = 4278; aged 65 years and over) with at least one LTC, registered in general practices in Salford, UK. Participants completed measures of health literacy, QoL, multi-morbidity, depression, social support, and socio-demographic characteristics. Multivariate linear regressions were performed to examine the effects of health literacy on four QoL domains at baseline, and then changes in QoL over 12 months.


At baseline, poor health literacy was associated with lower scores in all four QoL domains (physical, psychological, social relationships and environment), after adjusting for the effects of multi-morbidity, depression, social support and socio-demographic factors. At 12-month follow-up, low health literacy significantly predicted declines in the physical, psychological and environment domains of QoL, but not in social relationships QoL.


This is the largest, most complete assessment of the effects of health literacy on QoL in older adults with LTCs. Low health literacy is an independent indicator of poor QoL older patients with LTCs. Interventions to improve health literacy in older people with LTCs are encouraged by these findings.

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