Prevalence and Predictors of Limited Literacy among Public Mental Health Service Users


Literacy is an important predictor of health care utilization and outcomes. We examine literacy among people seeking care in a state funded mental health clinic (Site 1) and a safety-net hospital clinic (Site 2). Limited literacy was defined as literacy at or below the 8th grade level. At Site 1, 53% of participants had limited reading literacy and 78% had limited aural literacy. At Site 2, 72% had limited reading and 90% had limited aural literacy. Regression analyses examined associations among limited literacy and psychiatric, neurocognitive and sociodemographic characteristics. Few associations among psychiatric and neurocognitive factors, and literacy were found. At Site 2, black and “other” race participants had higher odds for limited literacy compared to white participants suggesting that limited literacy may be an under-examined mechanism in understanding racial disparities in mental health. Work is needed to understand the relationships among literacy, mental health and mental health care.

Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 44(1)
Chris Prener
Chris Prener
Assistant Professor of Sociology

My research interests include first responder work, urban neighborhood disorder, and tracing the effects of place on poor health outcomes.