Literacy Rate - Percent of Adults in Each Health Literacy Level by Age Groups, United States 2003

Examples of Tasks at Each Health Literacy Level

Below Basic: “Read a set of short instructions, and identify what is permissible to drink before a medical test.”
Basic: “Read a pamphlet, give two reasons a person with no symptoms should be tested for a disease.”
Intermediate: “Read instructions on a prescription label, and determine what time a person can take the medication.”
Proficient: “Using a table, calculate an employee’s share of health insurance costs for a year.”

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:  Health Communication Activities, America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information

Level 16-49 years 50-64 years 65-75 years Over 75 years
Below Basic 11 13 23 39
Basic 20 22 28 31
Intermediate 56 53 44 29
Proficient 13 12 5 1


Table Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy