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Health literacy of the baby boomer generation and the implications for nursing


  • Peta Harbour
  • Laurie Grealish


Aims and objectives To investigate the health literacy of the baby boomer generation and what this means for nursing care. Background Nurses are encouraged to tailor information and education to the individual's level of understanding or health literacy but there may be generational differences in health literacy due to historical, social, and economic contexts. The baby boomer generation, people born between 1946 and 1966, are projected to be high users of health services as they age, therefore nurses’ understanding of their health literacy characteristics is important. Design Integrative literature review. Methods Database and manual searching for articles occurred in July 2017. Four articles met the criteria. Data were extracted and tabulated, and methodological‐quality was assessed. Results Three categories of relevance emerged from the analysis of study findings: social demographics may predict health literacy, navigation of the health care system is challenging with low health literacy, and mechanisms to translate information into action remain unclear. Conclusions Although there is limited evidence to guide practice in regard to health literacy for the baby boomer generation, the emergence of the internet may confound nursing assessment of literacy: people from the baby boomer generation may appear to have higher literacy than they actually possess. Relevance to clinical practice Sociodemographic information may be used for initial screening for health literacy. Creative questions are recommended to overcome possible stigma associated with individual awareness of low literacy. The mechanisms for translating information into action require further investigation.

Suggested Citation

  • Peta Harbour & Laurie Grealish, 2018. "Health literacy of the baby boomer generation and the implications for nursing," Journal of Clinical Nursing, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 27(19-20), pages 3472-3481, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jocnur:v:27:y:2018:i:19-20:p:3472-3481
    DOI: 10.1111/jocn.14549

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lindsay C. Kobayashi & Jane Wardle & Michael S. Wolf & Christian von Wagner, 2016. "Aging and Functional Health Literacy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 71(3), pages 445-457.
    2. Nutbeam, Don, 2008. "The evolving concept of health literacy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2072-2078, December.
    3. Noble, Stephanie M. & Schewe, Charles D. & Kuhr, Michelle, 2004. "Preferences in health care service and treatment: A generational perspective," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 57(9), pages 1033-1041, September.
    4. Rhiannon Pilkington & Anne W Taylor & Graeme Hugo & Gary Wittert, 2014. "Are Baby Boomers Healthier than Generation X? A Profile of Australia’s Working Generations Using National Health Survey Data," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 9(3), pages 1-7, March.
    5. Commission, Productivity, 2011. "Caring for older Australians," Inquiry Reports, Productivity Commission, Government of Australia, number 53.
    6. David Moher & Alessandro Liberati & Jennifer Tetzlaff & Douglas G Altman & The PRISMA Group, 2009. "Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement," PLOS Medicine, Public Library of Science, vol. 6(7), pages 1-6, July.
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    1. Angela Schnelli & Julian Hirt & Adelheid Zeller, 2021. "Persons with dementia as internet users: what are their needs? A qualitative study," Journal of Clinical Nursing, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 30(5-6), pages 849-860, March.

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