Assessing Health Numeracy Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults
Quantitative information occupies a central role within health care decision making. Despite this, numeracy has attracted little research attention. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to (1) describe the health numeracy skill of a nonclinical, Canadian community-based senior population and (2) determine the relationship between health numeracy skill and prose health literacy, education, and math anxiety in this population. A convenience sample of 140 men and women, 50 + years, completed a questionnaire assessing demographic details, math anxiety, functional health literacy (Shortened Test of Functional Health Literacy for Adults STOFHLA), general context numeracy, and health context numeracy skills. Most participants had adequate functional health literacy (prose and numeracy) as measured by the STOFHLA, poorer general context numeracy skill, higher health context numeracy skill, and moderate math anxiety. Approximately 36% of the variation in general context numeracy scores and 26% of the variation in health context numeracy scores were explained by prose health literacy skill (STOFHLA), math anxiety, and attained education. This research offers an initial assessment of health numeracy skills as measured by three existing numeracy scales among a group of independently functioning older Canadian adults. This work highlights the need for clarification of the numeracy concept and refinement of health numeracy assessment instruments. Moreover, identifying patients' numeracy strengths and weaknesses will enable the development of focused numeracy interventions and may contribute to moving individuals further along the continuum of health literacy proficiency.
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