Differences in Reading Level and Commercial Information Content in Pharmacy-Provided Health Information Printouts



To determine whether the reading level of health information printouts and the inclusion of commercial information varied in a statistically significant manner in printouts obtained from a retail pharmacy.


A total of 31 different health information printouts were evaluated for reading level using the Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) readability analysis. Chi-square was used to determine differences in the presence or absence of four commercial content parameters: mention of a health organization, mention of a manufacturer, mention of a drug, or mention of a dose.


A single-sample t-test revealed a statistically significant difference in reading level among the health information printouts, t(30) = 47.91, p < 0.000, two-tailed. Chi-square analysis found no significant difference in whether a health organization, χ2(1, n = 31) = 1.58, p = 0.21, or a manufacturer, χ2 (1, n = 31) = 2.61, p = 0.11, were mentioned. There was a statistically significant difference in whether a drug, χ2(1, n = 31) = 9.32, p = 0.002, or a dose, χ2(1, n = 31) = 20.16, p = 0.000, was mentioned.


The fact that reading levels and the mention of a drug or dose was significantly different among the printouts suggests that these were not random events. It is thought that printouts, which have strong commercial overtones, are prepared in a manner to influence consumers to seek these products from their health care provider and not to strictly provide information on a particular health condition or disease state.

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Correspondence to Philip D. Rolland BS Pharmacy, MEd Psychology, RpH.

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Rolland, P.D. Differences in Reading Level and Commercial Information Content in Pharmacy-Provided Health Information Printouts. Ther Innov Regul Sci 36, 187–192 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1177/009286150203600124

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Key Words

  • Commercial information
  • Health information
  • Literacy
  • Readability analysis