Tayla Degan

IHMRI researchers take a closer look at the needs of people with mental illness.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health literacy (HL) as cognitive and social skills which influence an individual’s motivation and ability to access, understand and use information to maintain and promote good health (World Health Organization, 2009).

IHMRI researcher Tayla Degan, from UOW’s School of Psychology, has recently published a paper on Health Literacy in people living with mental illness.

“People with low health literacy levels have difficulty accessing available health information and healthcare. They often have lower levels of engagement with health professionals and services and often avoid seeking support due to shame and increased-self-consciousness associated with their difficulties,” said Tayla.

“Our research suggests that people living with mental illness may experience rates of low health literacy, which potentially impacts their abilitiy to adequately seek, access and navigate the Australian healthcare system,” she added.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from 2006 suggest that 60-65% of the population have low health literacy.

“It’s really the cornerstone for patient-centered care and a multidimensional approach is needed. Even reading medication instruction labels on prescriptions can be a struggles,” said Tayla.

The research also found that compared to private hospital patients, people with diabetes, and men with prostate cancer, those living with a mental illness, on average, have lower health literacy abilities.

Where to now?

“If health literacy abilities are considered when engaging or treating people living with mental illness, we may start to see better health outcomes, well being and quality of care for this population,” said Tayla.

“Health literacy is so important, particularly for this population, and if services tailored their treatment with this in mind, the short and long-term impact could be significant”.

Read more


Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

t: 4221 4702 m: 0417 044 867

e: louisenegline@ihmri.org.au

Top Photo: Tayla Degan

Photographer: Alex Pike



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