Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Health literacy, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Health literacy. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/health-literacy-for-young-people
Health literacy. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 June 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/health-literacy-for-young-people
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Health literacy [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 Dec. 8]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/health-literacy-for-young-people
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Health literacy, viewed 8 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/health-literacy-for-young-people
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In 2018, of young people aged 18–24:
Health literacy is both an individual and a system-wide concept. It describes the accessibility of health information and how well it is communicated, understood, interpreted and acted on.
Health literacy is seen to have 2 parts:
Increasing the health literacy of Australia can better equip and empower people to be actively involved in their health and the healthcare system, resulting in better health outcomes (ACSQHC 2014). Low levels of health literacy:
The importance of health literacy has been widely acknowledged and efforts to measure and improve it have increased in recent years (ACSQHC 2014):
The ABS Health Literacy Survey (HLS) was conducted for the first time in 2018 (ABS 2019a). Respondents aged 18 and over were drawn from the ABS National Health Survey 2017–18. The HLS uses the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ), a widely used and validated health literacy assessment tool (ABS 2019b).
The HLQ consists of 44 questions that combine to inform 9 domains of health literacy. Each domain covers different aspects of individual, environmental and/or institutional health literacy, providing a broad picture of the functional, social and systemic factors that influence the health literacy of the population (ABS 2019b; Osborne 2013). Each domain is independent and measures either the level of agreement with individual aspects of health literacy or the perceived difficulty of health literacy characteristics.
The HLQ does not provide a combined ‘total’ measure of health literacy, nor does it directly state whether, more broadly, health literacy levels are high or low. Health literacy has previously been measured as a derived domain of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS). However, the ALLS considered only an individual’s functional aspects of health literacy, such as their ability to understand text and find key information in documents. Hence, the data from the ALLS is not comparable with that from the HLS (ABS 2019a).
The National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health is an anonymous survey of Australian year 10, 11 and 12 students that asks questions about knowledge, behaviour and educational experiences related to sexual health and wellbeing (Fisher & Kauler 2019). It has been conducted every 5 years since 1992 and is funded by the Department of Health. The 6th National Survey was conducted in 2018, involving 6,327 students across government, Catholic and independent school systems (Fisher et al. 2019).
In 2018, based on results from the ABS Health Literacy Survey, most young people aged 18–24 assessed their own health literacy positively across all aspects of health literacy considered (Figure 1). Of the aspects considered:
Source: ABS 2019a.
In 2018, based on results from the ABS Health Literacy Survey, most young people aged 18–24 found all health literacy characteristics assessed (e.g. ability to actively engage with healthcare providers) usually or always easy (Figure 2). Of the health literacy characteristics reported:
(a) Comprises ‘Cannot do or always difficult’, ‘Usually difficult’ and ‘Sometimes difficult’.
Note: Proportions have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. The sum of proportions will not equal 100%.
Source: ABS 2019a.
In 2018, the National Survey of Secondary Students and Sexual Health found that, overall, Year 10 to 12 students have a good knowledge of sexual health, are actively seeking trusted and reliable sources of information and are behaving responsibly.
The survey tested sexual health knowledge. While knowledge of sexually transmitted infections was good, there is room for improvement:
Of the sources of sexual health information students had ever used:
Students rated the most trusted source of sexual health information as follows: GPs (89%), followed by mother/female guardian/stepmother (60%) and community health services (55%). Most rated the internet with a moderate level of trust (56%).
Most students reported receiving relationships and sexuality education (84%) at school, with 1 in 3 (38%) finding it very or extremely relevant (Fisher et al. 2019).
Over the last 10–25 years, a comparison with previous National Surveys suggests that general STI knowledge has improved, knowledge of HIV transmission has remained high and knowledge of HPV and hepatitis has remained low. In terms of sources of information, using the internet and friends has increased, while levels of trust in the accuracy of online information has remained low (Fisher & Kauler 2019). For data on responsible sexual behaviours, see Intimate relationships.
For more information on Australia’s health and literacy, see:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019a. National Health Survey: Health literacy, 2018. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.014. Canberra: ABS. Viewed April 2021.
ABS 2019b. National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4363.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed April 2021.
ACSQHC (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care) 2014. Health literacy: taking action to improve safety and quality. Sydney: ACSQHC. Viewed April 2021.
Choudhry FR, Ming LC, Munawar K, Zaidi STR, Patel RP, Khan TM et al. 2019. Health literacy studies conducted in Australia: a scoping review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16:1,112. Viewed April 2021.
CFFR (Council on Federal Financial Relations) 2020a. Consolidated version of the National Health Reform Agreement. Canberra: CFFR. Viewed April 2021.
CFFR 2020b. Schedule J—Addendum to the National Health Reform Agreement: revised public hospital funding and health reform arrangements. Canberra: CFFR. Viewed April 2021.
DoH (Department of Health) 2019a. National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People: 2020-2030. Canberra: DoH. Viewed April 2021.
DoH 2019b. Youth Taskforce Interim Report. Canberra: DoH. Viewed April 2021.
Fisher CM & Kauler S 2019. National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health 1992–2018: Trends Over Time. ARCSHS Monograph Series no. 118. Bundoora: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University. Viewed April 2021.
Fisher CM, Waling A, Kerr L, Bellamy R, Ezer P, Mikolajczak G et al. 2019. 6th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health 2018. ARCSHS Monograph Series no. 113. Bundoora: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University. Viewed April 2021.
Moreira L 2018. Health literacy for people-centred care. Where do OECD countries stand? OECD Health Working Papers no. 107. Paris: OECD Publishing. Viewed April 2021.
OECD 2017. OECD Health Ministerial Statement—the next generation of health reforms. Paris: OECD Publishing. Viewed April 2021.
Osborne RH, Batterham RW, Elsworth GR, Hawkins M & Buchbinder R 2013. The grounded psychometric development and initial validation of the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ). BMC Public Health 13:658. Viewed April 2021.
The ABS Health Literacy Survey does not include Very Remote areas of Australia or discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
For general technical notes relating to this report, see also Methods.
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