Health literacy, sociodemographic factors, and cognitive training in the active study of older adults

Steven P. Verney, Laura E. Gibbons, Natalia O. Dmitrieva, Alexandra M. Kueider, Michael W. Williams, Oanh L. Meyer, Jennifer J. Manly, Shannon M. Sisco, Michael Marsiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: Health literacy is critical for understanding information from health-care providers and correct use of medications and includes the capacity to filter other information in navigating health care systems. Older adults with low health literacy exhibit more chronic health conditions, worse physical functioning, and poorer mental health. This study examined the relationship between sociodemographic variables and health literacy, and the impact of cognitive training on change in health literacy over 10 years in older adults. Methods: Participants (N = 2,802) aged 65 years and older completed assessments, including reading and numeracy health literacy items, as part of the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study. We evaluated baseline sociodemographic variables and change in health literacy over a 10-year period in individuals exposed to cognitive training in reasoning, processing speed, memory, or a no-contact control condition. Results: Age, sex, race, education level, and general cognitive functioning at baseline were all associated with baseline health literacy in older adults. Predictors of change in health literacy over the 10-year follow-up were age, race, education level, general cognitive functioning, and neighborhood income; disparities in health literacy because of race attenuated over time, while the effect of age increased over time. Health literacy was generally stable across the ACTIVE intervention groups over 10 years. Conclusions: The present study showed important disparities in health literacy level and change over 10 years. Cognitive training did not significantly impact health literacy, suggesting that alternative approaches are needed to reduce the disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-570
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • cognitive training
  • health disparities
  • health literacy
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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