The association of health literacy with illness and medication beliefs among older adults with asthma

Alex D. Federman, Michael Wolf, Anastasia Sofianou, Elizabeth A.H. Wilson, Melissa Martynenko, Ethan A. Halm, Howard Leventhal, Juan P. Wisnivesky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Objective: Suboptimal health literacy (HL) and asthma beliefs are associated with poor asthma self-management and outcomes. We tested the hypothesis that low HL is associated with inaccurate beliefs. Methods: Asthmatics ≥60 were recruited from hospital and community practices in New York, NY and Chicago, IL (N = 420). HL was measured with the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults; validated instruments derived from the self regulation model were used to assess beliefs. The association of beliefs with HL was evaluated with multivariate models. Results: Thirty-six percent of patients had low HL; 54% believed they only have asthma when symptoms are present, 29% believed they will not always have asthma and 20% believed that their doctor can cure asthma. HL was associated with beliefs of not having asthma all the time and that asthma can be cured (OR: 1.84, 95% CI: 1.2-2.82; OR: 2.22, 95% CI: 1.29-3.82, respectively). Patients with low HL were also more likely to be concerned about medication use (β = 0.92, p = .05), despite recognizing their necessity (β = -1.36, p = .01). Conclusions: Older asthmatics with low HL endorse erroneous asthma beliefs. Practice implications: Health communications for improving self-management behaviors in asthma should employ both health literacy-appropriate strategies and messages to counter illness-related misconceptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-278
Number of pages6
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


  • Asthma
  • Asthmatics
  • Elderly
  • Health literacy
  • Illness beliefs
  • Medication beliefs
  • Older
  • Self-management


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