Explaining the causal links between illness management and symptom reduction: Development of an evidence-based patient education strategy Journal Articles uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: To determine whether explaining the causal links between illness management and symptom reduction would help younger and older adults learn and apply health information. METHOD: Ninety younger and 51 older adults read about a fictitious disease with or without explanations about the cause-and-effects (causal information) of illness management. A knowledge test (applied vs. factual items) was administered immediately and 1-week following the presentation of health booklets. Reading comprehension, working memory and health literacy were assessed as covariate variables. RESULTS: Younger adults outperformed older individuals on the applied and factual items at both time points. After controlling for covariates, causal information facilitated the comprehension and application of health information for younger but not older adults. Reading comprehension was the best predictor of test performance in the older sample. CONCLUSIONS: Providing an explanation of why illness management is effective for reducing symptomatology can help improve knowledge and application of health information for younger individuals. For older adults, lowering the verbal demands of patient education materials may be a better way to help them learn new health information. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Use of causal information as a teaching strategy in patient education may enhance individuals' ability to learn about and implement self-care strategies.


  • Zhang, Karen
  • Swartzman, Leora C
  • Petrella, Robert J
  • Gill, Dawn P
  • Minda, John Paul

publication date

  • June 2017