Misunderstanding of medication labels: Results of a national survey in Taiwan

Tzu I. Tsai, Shoou Yih D. Lee, Ly Yun Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: To investigate, in a national sample of Taiwanese adults, the extent to which adults misunderstand medication labels and the relationships between misunderstanding and functional and communicative health literacy.

Methods: We partnered with the Taiwan Social Change Survey in 2011 to collect data for this study. Misunderstanding of the medication label was measured by survey respondents' inability to correctly answer 8 questions regarding the route of administration, dosing time, next dosing schedule, individual dosage instructions, indications, warnings, side effects, and physical features of the drug. Respondents' health literacy levels were measured with four screening questions.

Results: Of the 2,003 respondents, 1,127 (56.3%) misunderstood one or more elements of the medication label. Logistic regression models showed that among the four health literacy skills, only reading was significantly associated with misunderstanding of the medication label. Age, educational level, occupation, and urbanization of the residential area were significantly associated with misunderstanding of the medication label.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that misunderstanding of medication labels is a problem in the general population of adults in Taiwan. Clear medication labels may be insufficient to ensure the public's safe use of prescription drugs. Additional efforts may be needed to improve the design of medication labels, such as using pictorial presentations to convey the key information of medications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-250
Number of pages13
JournalTaiwan Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • Communicative health literacy
  • Functional health literacy
  • Medication label


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