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STADA Health Report 2015

Germans’ health knowledge - A cause for concern?

One in two Germans do not know enough about their health. That was the conclusion of a current survey which is conducted by STADA in cooperation with the market research institut Kantar Health. Around half of Germans have no idea what antibiotics are used for or what temperature is considered fever. Also of concern: 21% of German have little interest in health topics. Overall women are more competent then men in healt issues, those with a higher level of education have better knowledge than those with a lower level of education, older people know more than younger people. Nevertheless the answers reveal gaps in knowledge in many areas of health and within different social groups. With the study of Germans’ health knowledge, the STADA Health Report will now begin its second round, after it started with a survey in Autumn 2014 about people’s attitudes, wishes and behavior towards their health. As part of the "Health Report 2015", market research institute conducted online a population-representative survey of 2,000 people, aged between 18 and 70. During the study concept development we involved high-ranking support in the form of the renowned doctor and author, Dr. Johannes Wimmer.

Some results of the STADA Health Report 2016

  • 72% of people who suffer from diabetes do not know what is happening in their body.

  • 41% of Germans know nothing about the sun protection factor of suncream.

  • 48% of Germans do not know that antibiotics fight bacteria.

  • 34% of all participants did not know their own blood group.

  • 24% of Germans do not know the optimal resting heart rate of a person (60 – 80 beats per minute).

  • 53% of the population does not know that a temperature of 38.5 degrees or above constitutes.

Antibiotics – universal medication ‘for everything’?

Almost half of Germans have no idea what antibiotics are used for, eleven percent believe that they are a universal remedy ‘for everything’. Three in ten Germans do not know that antibiotics should be taken until the package is finished. When asked about the correct usage of painkillers, most Germans are too careless. Almost half of Germans have no idea what antibiotics are used for. Even more concerning: Eleven percent, more than one in ten, believe that they are a universal remedy ‘for everything’. That is around 6.1 million people in Germany. Higher education also indicates higher health literacy here: Only 46 percent of those with Volksschule or Hauptschule qualifications knew the correct answer, bacteria, whereas this figure was 57 percent for those with Abitur or higher education. There is also a regional anomaly with antibiotics: People from Berlin gave the lowest number of correct answers, 39 percent, in this representative study. The state had the highest number of respondents who admitted to not regularly seeking information about health topics. The connection between frequency of searching for information and knowledge about antibiotics was also confirmed through cross-comparison: 66 percent of Germans who search for information on health topics daily know what this type of medication is used for – the highest level. However, three in ten Germans (31 percent) do not know an important fact about taking antibiotics. They do not know the correct answer ‘Take until the package is finished’. 41 percent of men admit to a gap in knowledge here, but only 23 percent of women do.

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Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer - Interview with an expert

Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer, Head of Digital Patient Communication at the CVderm University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf. He has set himself the task of optimally preparing people for their doctor’s visit. His motto: “Medicine is communication!”
» People often come to us with a viral infection and ask for antibiotics. In fact, they only really have a mild cold, and in any case antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. «, Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer

Questions & Answers

From a doctor’s point of view: Why is it so important to examine Germans’ health knowledge in studies?

Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer: We doctors generally don’t know how much our patients know. In our stressful days, we often do not have time to find out exactly what is wrong. The communication between doctor and patient should ensure exactly that, face to face. Clarification and establishment of health literacy are therefore extremely important. The STADA Health Report 2015 shows where there are gaps.

What was the particular focus during development of the survey?

Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer: During development of the survey it was important to us to ask about as many aspects of health knowledge as possible: What do people in Germany already know, and what don’t they know? And we weren’t just interested in serious illnesses, but also in every day topics such as blood pressure and sun protection. We wanted to find out whether there are differences between different social groups. Because doctors are not free from misjudgments and prejudices. With an academic or a man in a well-fitting suit, we tend to assume that his knowledge is fairly good. The same is true if a woman – and mother – is sat opposite me: I automatically assume that she knows more, as the ‘family health minister’.

Do the results of the STADA Health Report 2015 match your own experience as a doctor?

Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer: The results confirm what I see every day as a doctor: Most people only think about illness when they themselves are ill. So far the motto has been: “Medical information and images? I don’t need that.” But why? The reasons seems to be simple: Thinking about our own health just isn’t interesting. As a doctor I see it as my duty – in the case of a critical diagnosis – to inform people quickly. In such an emotional situation, I have to provide a detailed explanation. Better health knowledge would make this easier.

How would you evaluate the results of the study?

Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer: Some of the results of the STADA Health Report 2015 shocked me, such as the low level of health literacy among those with chromic conditions: Anyone with a chronic condition should know enough about it. But unfortunately many patients simply pass their problems on to their doctor. They are often not interested, and simply want a quick solution. In conversations with patients it becomes clear that this is not a result of ignorance, but of fear.

What do you think: What should be done to improve health knowledge?

Dr. med. Johannes Wimmer: We need to think about where patients look for help, support or information, and provide them with understandable explanations there. People drown in information. What is the point in a long online article, if I can’t understand it? It is important that information is prepared to fit the target audience. We communicate differently with children than with adults.