Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Related Sciences

First Advisor

J. James Cotter


This study examined the relationships among the variables health literacy, social support, and patient activation. The subjects were 90 elderly, community residing adults meeting the inclusion criteria and who volunteered to participate in the study and completed three survey instruments: the Short Form of Functional Health Literacy (Parker, Baker, Williams & Nurss, 1995); the Medical Outcomes Survey (MOS) Social Support Survey Instrument (Sherboume & Stewart, 1991); the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) Short-Form (Hibbard, Mahoney, Stockard, & Tusler, 2005); and a demographic form.

A correlational design was used to test the hypotheses that social support and health literacy are positively related to patient activation. Health literacy was significantly and positively related to patient activation. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine whether health literacy explained a significant proportion of the variance in patient activation. Neither health literacy or social support explained a significant proportion of the variance. Demographic variables of age, level of education, gender, marital status, and self-rated health accounted for a small, but statistically significant proportion of the variance. Implications of these findings include that social support did not have significant effects on patient activation. Health professionals should continue to explore additional directions to ameliorate the negative effects of low health literacy and activate patients, including reactions to health problems.


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