Illiteracy and Your Health

When most people think of the effects of illiteracy they think of the obvious- the inability to read a newspaper, fill out a job application or take a test. They don’t think of the health consequences of illiteracy. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine deemed illiteracy as the “Silent Epidemic.” Based on a numerous studies, there is a link between illiteracy and poor health. Specifically, individuals who function at the lowest levels of literacy are more likely to suffer from diabetes and heart failure.

The hallmark of illiteracy is shame and fear. People who are illiterate are ashamed of their condition and fearful that they will be found out. When they do visit the doctor, they are scared to ask questions because they are scared that the doctor will figure out that they can’t read. So they don’t ask important questions and because they can’t read written instructions, are more susceptible to making life threatening mistakes. As a result, they are more likely to visit the emergency room due to improper usage of medication or failure to follow doctor’s orders. This dramatically increases their health care costs and makes them more weary of going to the doctor altogether.

Hence the term the Silent Epidemic. Illiteracy is killing people. Let’s all do our part to make sure illiteracy doesn’t continue to deprive people of a healthy life.


Ciji Dodds
Miss International 2011


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