Literacy and cancer anxiety as predictors of health status: an exploratory study

J Cancer Educ. 2009;24(3):218-24. doi: 10.1080/08858190902910871.


Background: Socioeconomic status is a strong correlate of health status. Low literacy is associated with barriers to health information and anxiety about disease.

Methods: Using 2003 Health Information National Trends Survey data, the relationship between self-reported health status and proxy measures of literacy (Hispanic ethnicity, education, and media variables), cancer anxiety, and cancer information seeking were assessed.

Results: Low literacy, measured by proxy variables, was associated with a greater likelihood of reporting fair-poor health status. Reporting excellent-good health status was less likely for people reporting frustration finding cancer information (odds ratio [OR] 0.68, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.52-0.89), worry about cancer (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.35-0.89), and increased chance of getting cancer (OR 3.5, 95% CI 0.24-0.51).

Conclusion: Proxy variables for literacy suggest a possible contribution to health status disparities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Young Adult