Health Literacy and the Processes Used by Young People 18-24 Years Old in Managing Their Health

Monday, 30 July 2012

Julie M. Shaw, RN, BAppSc (Nursing), MPH
Anne M. McMurray, RN, BA (Psych), MEd, PhD
Mary Sidebotham, RN, RM, MA, PhD
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Griffith University, Qld, Australia

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to discuss health literacy as a determinant of health that is dependent on both the concept and prevailing context.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to understand that the processes used by young Australians to manage their health are diverse and constrained by context.


Health literacy is a new and evolving concept that is dependent on context. Health professionals agree that health literacy is an important determinant of the health of individuals and populations. Little is known about the health literacy of young people aged 18-24 years. The purpose of this study was to explore the dimensions and nature of health literacy from the population perspective of young people aged 18 -24 years who are transitioning, or have transitioned, to independence. 


The study relates directly to the what, where, how and why of young people’s use of health information and services in the management of their health. This exploratory qualitative study analyses data comprised of personal perspectives provided by young people aged 18-24 years as generated by personal interviews and discussion via social media. Young people were recruited from University, TAFE and community agencies caring for the unemployed and homeless to ensure inclusion of young people across the educational and socioeconomic spectrums.  


Findings from pilot and initial interviews indicate that young people: consider their health to be important; have competing demands that impact health; have difficulty in establishing a life balance; search for health information when they are unwell; use technology to access health information and services; and think ‘it is about time’ that their thoughts and needs were considered in the development of health information and services appropriate to them. 


This study is engaging young people who are transitioning to independence in identifying the dimensions and nature of young people’s health literacy and the processes they use in managing their health. The findings of the completed study will inform the: evolving definition of health literacy; and recommendations for the future development of accessible, appropriate and relevant health information and services for young Australians aged 18-24 years.