Background: Frailty is a state of vulnerability to stressors which may result in high mortality, morbidity, and health-care utilization in older adults. Whether health literacy, graph literacy and numeracy are associated with frailty is unknown.
Aim: To assess the association of health literacy, numeracy and graph literacy with frailty in male veterans.
Methods: This is a retrospective study of 470 cognitively intact, non-depressed veterans who completed evaluations of health literacy, numeracy and graph literacy at Miami VA facility in 2012. A 43-item frailty index was created as a proportion of all potential variables (demographics, comorbidities, number of medications, laboratory tests, and activities of daily life). Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated by multinomial logistic regression models with frailty status (robust, prefrail and frail) as the outcome variable, and with health literacy, numeracy, and graph literacy scores as independent variables. Age, race, ethnicity, education, socio-economic status, and comorbidities were considered as covariates.
Results: Patients were 100% male, 40% White, 82% non-Hispanic, mean age was 56.8 years. The proportion of robust, pre-frail and frail was 10.0%, 61.3% and 28.7%, respectively. Neither health literacy nor objective nor subjective numeracy was associated with frailty after adjustment for covariates. In contrast, higher graph literacy scores were associated with a lower risk for frailty (p = .015) even after adjusting known risk factors for frailty.
Discussion and conclusion: Neither health literacy nor numeracy is associated with frailty. Higher graph literacy score is associated with a lower risk for frailty even after adjusting for known risk factors for frailty.
Keywords: Frailty; Graph literacy; Health literacy; Numeracy; Veterans.