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Numeracy Skills and Health Information Sources Among the Middle Aged to Older Adults in the United States

Sat, April 14, 10:35am to 12:05pm, New York Marriott Marquis, Fourth Floor, Brecht


This study examined the associations between the numeracy skills and health information sources among the middle-aged to older adults (aged 45 and older) in the U.S.

Theoretical framework
One of the critical education outcomes --- numeracy skills --- has not received sufficient attention even though the research on health literacy on a variety of health and behavioral outcomes have been extensively conducted. The U.S. has experienced a rapid advancement in health science and transition to the health information-rich society. Since health information often contains a large amount of complex numeric information, individuals need to acquire sufficient numeracy skills to understand and use such information (Yee & Simon, 2014). Particularly, the middle-aged to older adults who tend to have more health problems than younger counterparts should be aware of the importance of numeracy for their well-being (Scott et al., 2002). However, significantly less is known about the role of numeracy in the context of health information among the middle-aged to older adults.

Data and Methods
Data were obtained from the 2012/2014 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) (Rampey et al., 2016). We derived the PIAAC data for the American adults aged 45 years and older. Detailed descriptive statistics were computed. In addition, regression analyses were conducted to examine the associations between the eight health information sources (newspapers, magazines, internet, radio, television, books, friends and family, health professionals) and numeracy skills. The conditional regression models were constructed adjusting for the series of covariates including age group, gender, race, educational attainment, employment status, self-rated health and use of numeracy skills at home. The PIAAC final sampling weights and replicate weights were used to generate nationally representative findings. After excluding those with missing values, the final analytic sample included 2,573 middle-aged to older respondents.

Detailed descriptive statistics were produced for the health information sources by numeracy skills as well as the covariates. With regard to the health information sources, numeracy skills were negatively associated with use of particular information sources including newspaper, magazine, radio, television and books. At the same time, there was a positive relationship between numeracy skills and the internet as a health information source.

These nationally representative estimates of the numeracy skills are useful for future research as well as policy discussions in order to improve well-being of the American adults through health literacy as well as numeracy. Also, the positive associations between the numeracy and use of the internet as a health information source could be incorporated into the numeracy-based health education and education policies in hopes of promoting well-being of the middle-aged to older adults in the U.S. At the same time, the insights about the negative associations between the numeracy skills and use of multiple health information sources (e.g., television, radio) are also useful to identify sub-populations who are at health disadvantages due to the insufficient numeracy skills.


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