Article Text

PDF

Internet use, social engagement and health literacy decline during ageing in a longitudinal cohort of older English adults
  1. Lindsay C Kobayashi,
  2. Jane Wardle,
  3. Christian von Wagner
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lindsay C Kobayashi, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK; l.kobayashi.12{at}ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

Background Health literacy skills tend to decline during ageing, which is often attributed to age-related cognitive decline. Whether health literacy skills may be influenced by technological and social factors during ageing is unknown.

Methods We investigated whether internet use and social engagement protect against health literacy decline during ageing, independent of cognitive decline. We used prospective data from 4368 men and women aged ≥52 years in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing from 2004 to 2011. Health literacy was measured at baseline (2004–2005) and at follow-up (2010–2011) using a reading comprehension test of a fictitious medicine label. The influences of consistent internet use and engagement in each of the civic, leisure and cultural activities on health literacy decline over the follow-up were estimated.

Results After adjusting for cognitive decline and other covariates, consistent internet use (1379/4368; 32%) was protectively associated with health literacy decline (OR=0.77; 95% CI 0.60 to 0.99), as was consistent engagement in cultural activities (1715/4368; 39%; OR=0.73; 95% CI 0.56 to 0.93). As the number of activities engaged in increased, the likelihood of health literacy decline steadily decreased (ptrend<0.0001), with OR=0.51 (95% CI 0.33 to 0.79) for engaging in all four of the internet use and civic, leisure and cultural activities versus none.

Conclusions Internet use and social engagement, particularly in cultural activities (eg, attending the cinema, art galleries, museums and the theatre), may help older adults to maintain health literacy during ageing. Support for older adults to maintain socially engaged lives and to access the internet should help promote the maintenance of functional literacy skills during ageing.

  • AGEING
  • COGNITION
  • LONGITUDINAL STUDIES
  • SOCIAL INEQUALITIES
  • Social activities

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Supplementary materials

  • Press release

    Files in this Data Supplement:

  • Supplementary Data

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

    Files in this Data Supplement:

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.