Irish Journal of Medical Science

, Volume 180, Issue 1, pp 139–142

Readability level of patient information leaflets for older people

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11845-010-0624-x

Cite this article as:
Cronin, M., O’Hanlon, S. & O’Connor, M. Ir J Med Sci (2011) 180: 139. doi:10.1007/s11845-010-0624-x



Limited literacy is associated with a nearly twofold increase in mortality in older patients.


The aim was to assess the readability level of patient information leaflets in Ireland.


The SMOG formula is a validated tool to assess readability of text, providing an estimate of the years of education needed to understand a piece of writing. We evaluated 45 common patient information leaflets for older people, and compared them to newspapers.


The mean readability level of the patient education leaflets was 12.57 (range 9.4–16.33). The mean readability level of broadsheet newspapers was 12. A majority of patient education materials are written at an excessively high readability level.


Patient education information should be aimed at an appropriate level for the target audience. This is of particular relevance in the older population, who are at a higher risk of inadequate or marginal health literacy.


Older people Readability Patient information leaflets Literacy Patient education 

Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cork University HospitalCorkIreland

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