Among older adults, the better they're able to read, understand and use health and medical information, the happier they are, suggests a US study.

The Study

Researchers asked 383 people age 50 and older if they could read and answer questions on medical forms without assistance. They also asked them to rate their level of happiness.

Participants who had the most difficulty reading and understanding medical forms were more than twice as likely to report being unhappy as those with higher literacy levels, the study found.

The study was published online in the journal Social Indicators Research.

Possible Explanation

This finding might have to do with a sense of control, explained lead author Erik Angner, PhD, an assistant professor of philosophy and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Feeling in control which could be undermined by poor health literacy has been linked to higher happiness scores.

The researchers suggested that improving health literacy should be a critical part of programs designed to boost health among older adults.

About 90 million Americans have problems understanding and using health information, according to a 2004 Institute of Medicine report.

Senior Years Are the Happiest

A new study has found that with age comes happiness and “life gets better in one's perception as one ages.”

Key: Older people gain perspective on their achievements, placing greater value on what they have accomplished and becoming more accepting of what they haven't. The study was based on interviews of about 28,000 people ages 18 to 88, conducted from 1972 to 2004. Its findings are consistent across time. It found that at age 88, one-third of Americans reported being "very happy," compared with only about 24% of people in their 20s.

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