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How Much Do Health Literacy and Patient Activation Contribute to Older Adults' Ability to Manage Their Health?

This AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Paper examines the independent influence of health literacy and patient activation in areas in which older adults must have skill or knowledge to manage their health and health care. These areas include Medicare decision making, health-care-related behaviors, healthy behaviors, and chronic disease self-management behaviors. The examination of health literacy and patient activation and their relative contribution to health-related behaviors and health care choices will inform the types of strategies that are likely to be most effective in supporting consumer engagement.

The study finds that patient activation and health literacy positively influence the skills and behaviors older adults need to effectively manage their health. However, the two factors affect different health-related outcomes. Health literacy positively influences Medicare decision making. Patient activation, on the other hand, has a greater influence on one's engagement in health-care-related, healthy, and chronic illness self-management behaviors. (24 pages)