In 2020, 51% of Switzerland's population had adequate or excellent (i.e. high) health literacy. This percentage is lower for digital health literacy (28%) and navigational health literacy (26%). This means that 72% and 74% respectively have problematic or poor (i.e. low) digital or navigational health literacy (general health literacy: 49%).
People with better social support, better knowledge of the national language, or with no chronic disease or financial deprivation are more likely to have adequate or excellent health literacy.
This indicator is part of the Monitoring System Addiction and NCD (MonAM) of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
Health literacy is the knowledge, motivation and skills of a person to find, understand, evaluate and put into practice health information in order to make decisions in everyday life that have a positive impact on health. Digital health literacy refers specifically to these skills in the digital space. Navigational literacy on the other hand, describes the ability to find, assess and use information about the health system and its organisations and services, both offline and online, in order to obtain the best possible care for oneself or loved ones.
The self-management skills of people with chronic disease are described in the indicator “Self-management skills in the chronically ill (Age: 18+).”
Low health literacy is often associated with socio-economic disadvantage and can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. Health literacy is thus a resource that promotes health equity and helps ensure the health system works properly. Furthermore, health literacy also contributes to the appropriate use of health services and should therefore be encouraged by means of suitable framework conditions. Strengthening health literacy is one of the objectives of the Federal Council's Health2030 Strategy.
The indicator shows general, digital and navigational health literacy in the Swiss population as well as the distribution of adequate or excellent health literacy among persons with different socio-demographic characteristics.
Data are based on the Health Literacy Survey Switzerland 2019-2021 (HLS19-21-CH) from De Gani et al. (2021). The study draws from a representative sample of the Swiss population. The survey of 2502 people aged 18 and older was conducted online and by telephone in March and April 2020.
Health literacy itself was assessed by means of the European Health Literacy Survey Questionnaire (HLS-EU-Q) (Sörensen et al., 2012). An abridged version (HLS-EU-Q12) adapted by the HLS19 consortium of the WHO Action Network M-POHL (2021) was used in Switzerland. This questionnaire identifies the skills and challenges the population has in processing health-related information. Four steps of information processing are distinguished (accessing, understanding, appraising and applying), which are applied to three areas (health promotion, disease prevention and disease management).
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