Prevalence of limited health literacy among irish adults

Laura J. Sahm*, Michael Wolf, Laura Marie Curtis, Suzanne McCarthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The authors conducted 2 health literacy investigations in Cork, Ireland. Study 1 was undertaken in 5 community pharmacies and the outpatient department of 2 urban hospitals and assessed patients health literacy skills using the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) and the Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Study 2 took place in 1 outpatient department and evaluated health literacy using the REALM and the short form of the Test of Functional Health Adults (S-TOFHLA). The authors collected data relating to age, gender, ethnicity, and educational level achieved. All subjects were asked items relating to their ability to use health-specific materials. A total of 1,759 people (61.2% female) completed either Study 1 (n=1,339) or Study 2 (n=420). Limited health literacy ranged from 18.4% (REALM) and 57.2% (NVS) in Study 1, and 21.9% (REALM) and 14.1% (S-TOFHLA) in Study 2 and was associated with increased age and lower educational attainment across all three tools (p<.001). Patients with limited health literacy were significantly more likely to report problems with using health materials received from a doctor or pharmacist. At minimum, 1 in 7 Irish adults were found to have limited health literacy, which may affect their ability to promote, protect, and manage health. As in the United States and in the United Kingdom, improving health literacy should be a public health objective for Ireland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-108
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health(social science)
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Communication

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