Asthma outcomes are poor among older adults with low health literacy

Alex D. Federman*, Michael S. Wolf, Anastasia Sofianou, Rachel O'conor, Melissa Martynenko, Ethan A. Halm, Howard Leventhal, Juan P. Wisnivesky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the association of health literacy (HL) with asthma outcomes among older asthmatics. Methods: The study included adults ages ≥60 with moderate to severe asthma in New York City and Chicago. We assessed asthma control with the Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) and the percent predicted forced expiratory volume at 1s (FEV1) by spirometry, hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits in the past 6 months, and quality of life. HL was assessed with the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (S-TOFHLA). Multivariate logistic regression models controlled for age, sex, race, income, general health and years with asthma. Results: Among 433 individuals, 36% had low HL, 55% were over age 65, 38% were Hispanic and 22% were black. Poor asthma control was reported by 40% and 32% had FEV1 <70% of predicted; 9% had a hospital stay, 23% had an ED and 38% had poor quality of life. In multivariable analysis, individuals with low HL were more likely to have FEV1 <70% predicted (odds ratio [OR] 2.34, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.39-3.94, p=0.001), hospitalizations (OR 2.53, 95% CI 1.17-5.49, p=0.02) and ED visits for asthma (OR 1.81, 95% CI 1.05-3.10, p=0.03). There were no differences in self-reported asthma control and quality of life. Conclusions: Low HL is associated with poor asthma control by objective measure, and greater likelihood of ED visits and hospitalization. HL is a modifiable target for interventions to improve asthma outcomes in the elderly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-167
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Asthma
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Asthma
  • Control
  • Elderly
  • Emergency department
  • Health literacy
  • Hospitalization
  • Outcomes
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Immunology and Allergy


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