Levels of health literacy in a community-dwelling population of Chinese older adults

Melissa A. Simon, Yu Li, Xinqi Dong

Publication Date: 01/01/2014

Background. Lower levels of health literacy have been associated with adverse health outcomes, especially for older adults. However, limited research has been conducted to understand health literacy levels among Chinese American older adults. Methods. The PINE study is an epidemiological cohort of 3,159 community-dwelling Chinese older adults, 95% of whom do not speak or read English. Chinese older adults’ health literacy levels were examined using the Chinese version of the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine, Revised (REALM-R) test. Kruskal-Wallis test and chi-square statistics were used to identify significant differences by sociodemographic and self-reported health characteristics. Pearson and Spearman correlation coefficients were used to examine correlations between personal characteristics and health literacy level. Results. The mean age among this sample of Chinese older adults was 72.8 years (SD = 8.3, range = 60-105) and the mean REALM-R test score was 6.9 [SD = 2.3, range (0-8)]. Health literacy was positively associated with education, marriage status, and number of people living with. Older age, being female, greater number of children, years in the United States, and preference for speaking Cantonese or Taishanese were negatively associated with health literacy. Health literary was not associated with self-reported health status or quality of life. Conclusions. In this Chicago Chinese population, older adults had reasonable levels of health literacy in Chinese. Future longitudinal research is needed to understand risk/protective factors associated with health literacy level in Chinese older adults.