Journal of Public Health

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 145–150 | Cite as

Disease-specific knowledge in individuals with and without chronic conditions

  • Paul Gellert
  • C. Ernsting
  • F. Salm
  • M. Oedekoven
  • M. Kanzler
  • A. Kuhlmey
Original Article



Knowledge about chronic conditions may be a basis to enable coping with them more effectively. However, more research is needed to examine whether knowledge levels in chronically ill individuals are superior to levels of those without chronic conditions. Our aim was to investigate differences in disease-specific knowledge in individuals with and without specific chronic conditions.

Subject and methods

A stratified and population-based sample of 4,144 individuals from Germany aged 35 and older with and without chronic conditions formed the basis of the investigation. Knowledge was measured using a validated health knowledge test with six subscales on specific conditions, namely cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, conditions of the musculoskeletal system, major depression, and chronic pain.


We found better knowledge in those suffering from respiratory diseases and musculoskeletal system conditions, no difference in those with cardiovascular diseases and depression, and lower values of disease-specific knowledge in individuals with chronic pain compared to those without the respective chronic condition. Results were adjusted for gender, age, education, health literacy, and other conditions.


People suffering from chronic conditions do not necessarily know more about their conditions. Better knowledge in individuals with respiratory diseases and diseases of the musculoskeletal system may be due to tailored health education. The unexpected effect in chronic pain patients may be related to false beliefs about the nature of their condition. Health education programs should address disease-specific barriers.


Health knowledge Health literacy Multimorbidity 



This material is based on work conducted and supported by the Pfizer Deutschland GmbH. Any findings and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pfizer Deutschland GmbH.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

PG has received research grants and a speaker honorarium from Pfizer Deutschland GmbH. MK is employee at Pfizer Deutschland GmbH. None of the other authors has any conflicting interests.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
corrected publication January/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Medical SociologyCharité – Universitätsmedizin BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Hygiene and Environmental MedicineCharité – Universitätsmedizin BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Pfizer Deutschland GmbHBerlinGermany

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