Background: Our study investigated the readability of printed material about dementia that is offered to patients and caregivers.
Methods: Comparisons of various brochures (at least three standard pages in length) on dementia and related disorders were made using automated measuring by the SMOG readability index grade.
Results: 118 brochures were assessed (25 in English, 93 in German), for which the mean readability was found to be high school/college level as measured by the SMOG readability index (grade 13.6 ± 1.8). No differences in readability were observed between materials produced by pharmaceutical companies and other sources. Furthermore, recently published brochures were not more readable than older ones. Shorter brochures, English brochures and those containing medical facts were easier to read than longer ones, those written in German or brochures primarily addressing psychosocial care/social issues. The sentence length was above the 20 word recommendation in 25% of the brochures. The average font size of the brochure texts was small (mean font size 11.1 ± 1.6 point) with only 25% of brochures having a font size of 12 or more, as recommended.
Conclusions: Written patient information and educational material of more than three standard pages is often published at unsuitably high readability levels using small fonts. Information material about dementia should be designed and tested prior to distribution among patients and caregivers. Future studies should address material shorter than three pages and material for younger caregivers.