Health numeracy: the importance of domain in assessing numeracy.

TitleHealth numeracy: the importance of domain in assessing numeracy.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsLevy, HG, Ubel, PA, Dillard, AJ, Weir, DR, Fagerlin, A
JournalMed Decis Making
Date Published2014 01
ISSN Number1552-681X
KeywordsAged, Humans, Mathematics, Middle Aged, Self Efficacy, Surveys and Questionnaires, Task Performance and Analysis

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Existing research concludes that measures of general numeracy can be used to predict individuals' ability to assess health risks. We posit that the domain in which questions are posed affects the ability to perform mathematical tasks, raising the possibility of a separate construct of "health numeracy" that is distinct from general numeracy. The objective was to determine whether older adults' ability to perform simple math depends on domain.

METHODS: Community-based participants completed 4 math questions posed in 3 different domains: a health domain, a financial domain, and a pure math domain. Participants were 962 individuals aged 55 and older, representative of the community-dwelling US population over age 54.

RESULTS: We found that respondents performed significantly worse when questions were posed in the health domain (54% correct) than in either the pure math domain (66% correct) or the financial domain (63% correct). Our experimental measure of numeracy consisted of only 4 questions, and it is possible that the apparent effect of domain is specific to the mathematical tasks that these questions require.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that health numeracy is strongly related to general numeracy but that the 2 constructs may not be the same. Further research is needed into how different aspects of general numeracy and health numeracy translate into actual medical decisions.

User Guide Notes

Endnote Keywords

Health Numeracy/Health Literacy/Health Literacy/Cognition

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalMed Decis Making
Citation Key8065
PubMed ID23824401
PubMed Central IDPMC4106034
Grant ListK01 AG034232 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R24 HD041028 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
K01AG034232 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States