Does Literacy Predict Self-Rated Health and Chronic Illness in Midlife?

Ian Bennett, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
Laryssa Mykyta, University of Pennsylvania

This paper contributes to the literature on literacy and health across the life course. Literacy is associated with a range of poor health-related outcomes, including mortality among older adults in the United States. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) 1979, we examine whether literacy assessed at ages 16-24 is independently associated with poor/fair self-rated health status and chronic conditions at midlife. Results from logistic regression analyses reveal that respondents with low literacy (<7th Reading Grade Level (RGL)) had significantly higher odds of reporting fair/poor self-rated health compared to those with high literacy (≥12th grade RGL) even after controlling for socio-demographic variables, including educational attainment. Although low literacy also exhibited significant bivariate association with chronic illness, neither literacy nor educational attainment retained a significant association with chronic disease in the fully adjusted model.

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Presented in Poster Session 5