Association of functional health literacy and cognitive ability with self-reported diabetes in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing: A prospective cohort study

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Abstract

ObjectivesWe investigated whether functional health literacy and cognitive ability were associated with self-reported diabetes.

DesignProspective cohort study
SettingData were from waves 2 (2004–2005) to 7 (2014–2015) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a cohort study designed to be representative of adults aged 50 years and older living in England.

Participants8669 ELSA participants (mean age=66.7, SD=9.7) who completed a brief functional health literacy test assessing health-related reading comprehension, and 4 cognitive tests assessing declarative memory, processing speed and executive function at wave 2.

Primary outcome measureSelf-reported doctor diagnosis of diabetes.

ResultsLogistic regression was used to examine cross-sectional (wave 2) associations of functional health literacy and cognitive ability with diabetes status. Adequate (compared with limited) functional health literacy (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.61 to 0.84) and higher cognitive ability (OR per 1 SD=0.73, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.80) were associated with lower odds of self-reporting diabetes at wave 2. Cox regression was used to test the associations of functional health literacy and cognitive ability measured at wave 2 with self-reporting diabetes over a median of 9.5 years follow-up (n=6961). Adequate functional health literacy (HR 0.64; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.77) and higher cognitive ability (HR 0.77, 95% CI 0.69 to 0.85) at wave 2 were associated with lower risk of self-reporting diabetes during follow-up. When both functional health literacy and cognitive ability were added to the same model, these associations were slightly attenuated. Additionally adjusting for health behaviours and body mass index fully attenuated cross-sectional associations between functional health literacy and cognitive ability with diabetes status, and partly attenuated associations between functional health literacy and cognitive ability with self-reporting diabetes during follow-up.

Conclusions
Adequate functional health literacy and better cognitive ability were independently associated with lower likelihood of reporting diabetes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere058496
JournalBMJ Open
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • health literacy
  • cognition
  • diabetess
  • prospective studies

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