A Page a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

A Page a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Reading is good for your health, researchers have discovered. Higher literacy levels are coordinated with better self-perceived health. A study at the University of Stavanger in Norway found that people who have lower levels of literacy often view themselves as less healthy, especially later in life. And, in fact, they often are. “Research shows that self-perceived health is closely related to actual well-being,” says Kjersti Lundetræ, associate professor at the Stavanger Reading Centre. “So adults with low literacy skills, as a group, are likely to be in worse physical shape than those who can read well.”

There’s a practical principle behind the conclusion. Lundetræ explains that many times, a visit to the doctor ends with extra information being handed out in the form of a note, pamphlet, or website. How well the patient understands the information can have a direct effect on the patient’s health and recovery. “We receive a great deal of information by reading,” she observes. And those who don’t read well naturally miss out on some of that information, especially since health-related literature is often lengthy, filled with technical terms, or even poorly written. The low ratio of “common” words to technical terms in health-related materials can make them especially difficult to digest.

The solution? Improving reading skills provides the best solution to the problem. However, Lundetræ suggests that writers of health-related literature take a second look at their material and see how it can be simplified. “Since a lot of those who are most in need of such knowledge are poor readers, these texts have to be easy to read. They must be written in a language which is not too technical or which uses too many words, and must communicate clearly and simply.”

Read the University of Stavanger’s full report online here.

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