Generic health literacy measurements for adults: A scoping review

Cindy Yue Tian, Richard Huan Xu, Phoenix Kit Han Mo, Dong Dong, Eliza Lai Yi Wong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Generic health literacy measurement (GHLM) is an important tool to identify individuals with limited health literacy and can assist the design of tailored interventions for improving public health literacy. However, there is no consensus on measuring generic health literacy. The present study aims to review current GHLM used for adults in the literature. Methods: A scoping review was undertaken to map the available measurements designed to assess generic health literacy. Results: The review identified 19 GHLM for adults. Most of them applied a multidimensional definition of health literacy with a focus on individuals’ abilities to access, appraise, understand, and apply health information and services. Nutbeam’s conceptual model and Sørensen’s integrated model were widely used among the identified measures as the theoretical foundation. While the social determinants of health (SDH) were acknowledged in the two models, it remains unmentioned in many of the identified measures based on the Nutbeam’s model and needs further development in the measure based on the Sørensen’s model. A total of 39 different domains were assessed in the 19 measurements: prose was identified in 8 measurements and was the most prominent domain; followed by numeracy (n = 7) and interactive (n = 7). SDH related domains such as social support (n = 3), social capital (n = 1) were seldom included in the identified measurements. Conclusions: Although current GHLM adopted a multidimensional construct, they mainly focused on individuals’ abilities and SDH has not been well-developed in the assessment. Further research is required to advance the measuring of the interaction between SDH and health literacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7768
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Adults
  • Generic health literacy
  • Measurements
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Generic health literacy measurements for adults: A scoping review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this