Health literacy


Research shows that 45% of people surveyed do not understand the term prognosis.

17% said they had taken the wrong amount of medication on at least one occasion.


New Irish research (2015) shows that Irish people want healthcare professionals to use less medical jargon:

  • Two in five (39%) Irish people are calling for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to use more understandable language and less medical jargon. This was followed by speaking less formally (22%) and taking more time to explain things (18%).

  • 17% of people surveyed said they had taken the wrong amount of medication on at least one occasion.

  • People aged 15 - 34 years were least likely to ask a doctor, nurse or pharmacist to explain things they don’t understand.

  • Embarrassment was ranked as the main reason for not seeking more information from a healthcare professional (24%).

[For more information on the research findings, see here.]


EU Health Literacy Survey (2012)

Ireland was one of eight European countries who participated in the European Health Literacy Survey.

Ireland is not alone in its health literacy problem – nearly every second person (46%) across the participating eight European countries was shown to have low or problematic health literacy. The survey marks the first time that health literacy levels have ever been measured in Ireland.

A presentation and reports are available here.


In 2007 Irish Health Literacy Research sponsored by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) revealed the following:

- 1 in 5 Irish people are not fully confident that they understand all the information they receive from their healthcare professional (doctor, nurse or pharmacist).

- 43% said they would only sometimes ask their healthcare professional to clarify the information if they did not understand something they had said.

- 1 in 10 people admitted taking the wrong dose of medication because they didn’t understand instructions.

- Two thirds of people also admitted to having difficulty understanding signs and directions in Irish hospitals some of the time, with 1 in 5 stating they have difficulty most of the time.


NALA research 2002

The need for research on health literacy in Ireland is highlighted in a NALA report from 2002 entitled, Health Literacy, Policy and Strategy. This research shows that people have struggled with essential health information, consent forms, have not fully understood procedures, found signage confusing and did not feel capable of taking part in decision making. Fear is a big barrier to communication.