Limited health literacy is associated with worse patient-reported outcomes in inflammatory bowel disease

Lauren K. Tormey, Jason Reich, Yu Sarah Chen, Arush Singh, Zachary Lipkin-Moore, Anzhu Yu, Janice Weinberg, Francis A. Farraye, Michael K. Paasche-Orlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) face complex health tasks and decisions. Limited health literacy is a risk factor for poor health outcomes, but this has not been examined in IBD. This study aims to assess the role of health literacy for patients with IBD. Methods We prospectively enrolled adults with IBD receiving care from the Section of Gastroenterology at the Boston Medical Center. In-person, standardized questionnaires were administered to measure health literacy with the Newest Vital Sign, self-efficacy with the Medication Use and Self-Efficacy Scale, quality of life with the 10-question Short Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire, depression with the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement System Short Form, and clinical disease activity for patients with Crohn's disease with the Harvey-Bradshaw Index and for patients with ulcerative colitis with the Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index (SCCAI). The relationships between health literacy and these variables were subsequently examined. Results Of 112 patients invited to participate, 99 enrolled and completed the interview. Limited health literacy was identified in 40% (n = 40) of patients. Patients with limited health literacy reported significantly worse overall health (P = 0.03) and more depressive symptoms (P = 0.01). Of the 56 patients with Crohn's disease, those with adequate health literacy were more likely to be in clinical remission (mean Harvey-Bradshaw Index score < 5), compared with those with limited health literacy (odds ratio, 4.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.37 to 13.45; P = 0.01). There was no significant association between health literacy and clinical disease activity (SCCAI) in patients with ulcerative colitis. Conclusions Limited health literacy is associated with lower ratings of subjective health and depression in IBD and more symptoms of active disease in patients with Crohn's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-212
Number of pages9
JournalInflammatory bowel diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • disease activity
  • health literacy
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • patient-reported outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Gastroenterology


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