Health literacy in old age: results of a German cross-sectional study

Health Promot Int. 2018 Oct 1;33(5):739-747. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dax012.


Health literacy is especially important for older people to maintain or enhance remaining health resources and self-management skills. The aim of the study was to determine the level of health literacy and the association between health literacy, demographic and socio-economic factors in German older adults aged 65 years and above stratified by age group. Health literacy was assessed via computer-assisted personal interviews using HLS-EU-Q47 on a representative sample of the German-speaking population. Descriptive statistics, bivariate analyses and logistic regression modelling stratified by age group were conducted to assess health literacy of 475 respondents aged 65 years and above. Overall, 66.3% of all respondents aged 65 years and above had limited health literacy. Limited health literacy was especially prevalent among respondents above 76 years of age (80.6%). Limited health literacy was associated with financial deprivation (OR: 3.05; 95% CI: 1.99-4.67) and limited functional health literacy (OR: 2.16; 95% CI: 1.29-3.61). Financial deprivation was strongest predictor for limited health literacy in the total sample and stratified by age group. Limited health literacy is a frequent phenomenon in German adults aged 65 years and above. Research on health literacy in old age and the role in health disparities is urgently needed.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires