Health literacy and age-related health-care utilisation: a multi-dimensional approach
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Inefficient health service utilization puts pressure on health systems and may cause such negative individual consequences as over-medicalization or exacerbation of health problems. While previous research has considered the key relevance of health literacy (HL) for efficient use of health services, the results of that research have been somewhat inconclusive. Possible reasons for diverging results of prior research may be grounded in different measurement concepts of HL and the disregarding of age-specific effects. This paper analyses the association between individuals? HL typology based on a two-dimensional concept and indicators of health service utilization measured by registered data covering the number of doctor visits and medication costs. Our results confirm a significant interaction effect between age and HL typology. The age-related increase in health service utilization is strongest for individuals with the combination of high subjective HL but low health-related knowledge, while the smallest increase is for individuals with the constellation of high subjective HL combined with high health-related knowledge. Individuals with specific constellations of HL (that is, individuals with high subjective HL but low health-related knowledge) are associated with reduced service utilization in younger ages but higher service utilization in later stages of life, compared to other groups. These results are likely to be attributed to a higher external health-related locus of control and more traditional paternalistic role-expectations in such groups.