Health Literacy Positively Associated With Health-Related QOL in Patients With COPD

Published on: 

Individuals with chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD) report low disease-specific knowledge.

Increased health literacy is associated with positive health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes in chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Individuals living with COPD, a leading cause of death in the United States, report low disease-specific knowledge. Often, patients will describe feeling trapped, socially isolated, and frustrated. One million people are hospitalized for it yearly, with a 30-day readmission rate of 20%. Despite this, little attention has been paid to the health literacy of these patients.

"Inadequate access to disease-specific education on self-management is a major problem in COPD, which hinders the patients’ ability to manage symptoms and utilize health care effectively," the authors wrote.


Investigators had adults from the COPD Foundation’s National Research Registry complete an online survey that assessed several factors, such as sociodemographic characteristics, health literacy, COPD knowledge, eHealth literacy, and both generic and lung-specific HRQOL. The survey netted 1270 respondents. Nearly 94% of eligible participants were white, 55.35% were female, and respondents who self-reported not being able to speak English were omitted. Regression models were used to examine the effect of health literacy and eHealth on both generic and lung specific HRQOL.

Investigators found that health literacy was the sole predictor of generic HRQOL. Health literacy, eHealth literacy, and COPD knowledge all were predictors for lung-specific quality of life. COPD knowledge was found to be inversely associated with lung specific HRQOL. Health literacy also proved to be positively associated with most lung specific HRQOL indicators, such as cough frequency and chest tightness.

“Although previous research has shown a relatively high prevalence of low health literacy among individuals living with COPD, little attention has been directed at exploring the cognitive and health literacy- related skills that can influence patients HRQoL,” the authors wrote. “Findings from this study indicated that health literacy, but not eHealth literacy, was positively associated with generic HRQOL.”


Stellefson M, Paige SR, Alber JM, et al. Association between health literacy, electronic health literacy, disease-specific knowledge, and health-related quality of life among adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: cross-sectional study. J Med Internet Res. 2019;21(6):e12165. doi: 10.2196/12165.