Background: Empirical evidence on how health literacy affects diabetes outcomes is inconsistent. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to quantitatively summarize the findings on the associations between health literacy and diabetes knowledge, self-care activities, and glycemic control as disease-related outcomes, with specific focus on the type of health literacy assessment. Data Sources: Nine databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, Communication and Mass Media Complete, PsychInfo, PsychArticles, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, ERIC, Sociology, Embase) were searched for peer-reviewed original research articles published until 31 March 2018. Methods: Studies with type 1 and/or type 2 diabetes patients aged 18 or older, providing a calculable baseline effect size for functional health literacy and diabetes knowledge, self-care activities, or HbA1C were included. Results: The meta-analysis includes 61 studies with a total of 18,905 patients. The majority were conducted in the USA, on type 2 diabetes patients, and used the S-TOFHLA as a performance-based or the BHLS as a perception-based measure of functional health literacy. Meta-analytic results show that all three outcomes are related to health literacy. Diabetes knowledge was best predicted by performance-based health literacy measures, self-care by self-report measures, and glycemic control equally by both types of health literacy assessment. Discussion: Health literacy plays a substantial role in diabetes knowledge. Findings for the role of health literacy in self-care and glycemic control remain heterogeneous, partly due to the type of health literacy assessment (performance- vs. perception-based). This has implications for the use of health literacy measures in clinical settings and original research. This meta-analysis was limited to functional health literacy and, due to the paucity of studies, did not investigate the role of other dimensions including communicative and critical health literacy.
- glycemic control
- health literacy