Cognition and health literacy in older adults' recall of self-care information

Jessie Chin, Anna Madison, Xuefei Gao, James F. Graumlich, Thembi Conner-Garcia, Michael D. Murray, Elizabeth A L Stine-Morrow, Daniel G Morrow, Rachel Pruchno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose of the Study: Health literacy is associated with health outcomes presumably because it influences the understanding of information needed for self-care. However, little is known about the language comprehension mechanisms that underpin health literacy. Design and Methods: We explored the relationship between a commonly used measure of health literacy (Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults [STOFHLA]) and comprehension of health information among 145 older adults. Results: Results showed that performance on the STOFHLA was associated with recall of health information. Consistent with the Process-Knowledge Model of Health Literacy, mediation analysis showed that both processing capacity and knowledge mediated the association between health literacy and recall of health information. In addition, knowledge moderated the effects of processing capacity limits, such that processing capacity was less likely to be associated with recall for older adults with higher levels of knowledge. Implications: These findings suggest that knowledge contributes to health literacy and can compensate for deficits in processing capacity to support comprehension of health information among older adults. The implications of these findings for improving patient education materials for older adults with inadequate health literacy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-268
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Domain-specific knowledge
  • Health literacy
  • Reading comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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